The years rolled by and Joe was a good boy and a credit to his family. One day when high school days were over his father came to him and said. "Joe, have you decided what you will be? "Joe said he would pray about it, and after two weeks he came to his father and said, "I will enter the ministry."
After he had received his B. A. degree, he went for three years to seminary to prepare himself for the ministry. One day one of the professors said to him. "You know, there is a lot of superstition mixed up with what we originally believed about God and the Bible. You are a brilliant student. You should weigh everything carefully. I want you to read the philosophers like Darwin, Renan, and Huxley, every one of them."
After graduation he accepted the pastorate of a little church in Iowa, and while there he married a wonderful Christian girl. After three years he was transferred to a church in California, where he began fighting a tremendous battle within his soul.
He was given an honorary degree and progressed in his ministerial career, yet all the time he was looking at the scriptures and interpreting them from the basis of reason or intellectualism, instead of faith.
It was there in California that the seeds that had been sown in his heart in college began to bear fruit. Joe confided to his wife that he was beginning to feel hypocritical, and finally he said, "I am going to quit. I can't stand it." He denied the Virgin Birth of Christ and the miracles, and one day, Dr. Joe Conlee went into his pulpit and said, "My friends, I cannot believe the Bible. There has been a battle in my heart for years, so this is the last time I will preach."
He was a gifted writer and soon got a job as editor of a newspaper. But he began to smoke and drink and gamble a little, and went from bad to worse. There were many days he could not report for work because of his drinking, and soon lost his job. He worked as an editor for numerous other papers in different cities, but lost each job as he was now intoxicated nearly all the time. The man who had been a respected, educated pastor became a pitiful drunk, shuffling around in ragged clothes. He became emaciated; a hollow-eyed, blaspheming, cursing, and swearing man.
One day on the street, he accidentally bumped into someone. Dr. Conlee was drunk, as usual. The fellow recognized him. "My old pastor! What are you doing like this? I cannot believe my eyes!" The kindly Christian, a doctor, took him to his house, gave him a bath and a new suit of clothes. Dr. Conlee pawned the suit and spent it on alcohol. Every penny he could get his hands on went for drink until he got as low as a human being could possibly get.
It was during the time of the great Alaskan gold rush, and his friends thought that if they could get him in a new environment his life might be changed. The old drunkard agreed to go to Alaska. So they packed his little trunk, bought him another suit of clothes, and put him on the boat bound for Skagway. His wife and daughter came to see him off. His little girl, Florence, put her arms around his neck and said, "Daddy, we put a little medicine chest in your trunk to have if you should get hurt there. And Daddy, I put my Bible inside of it. I wouldn't give it to anybody else in the world but you." That little Bible meant everything to Florence and on the flyleaf she had written the words: "To my darling Daddy, with love from Florence." Then the whistle blew and the old steamer began to plow its watery way towards Alaska.
In a few weeks he was in that great seething, cursing mass of humanity - gold prospectors on their way to the Yukon. The very first place he found to work was the biggest saloon in town. His pay was all he could drink and just enough food to keep him alive.
One day the owner came to him and said, "Doc, I want you to go over to the 40 Mile. We've struck gold over there and I bought the old log cabin. I want you to go out and hold the place for me." "Not me," said Joe. "I won't leave here. You know my little weakness." But the man said, "Joe, you can have all you want to drink. We'll send supplies out to you on the dog team."
So Joe found himself out in the Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile, with nothing to do but drink. The whiskey barrel was a quarter empty when, one day in October, there was a knock at the door of the cabin. There stood Jimmy Miller, who said he was cold and hungry. Conlee said, "Come on in, there's grub and a whiskey barrel." They were there two weeks, drinking themselves to sleep every night, when there came another knock at the door. Wally Flett, a con man from San Francisco came in, and when he saw the liquor, his mouth watered, and he asked if he could stay with them, too. They agreed, and there were three of them now in the little cabin. Their vulgar laughter, filthy jokes, and obscene storytelling were unspeakable.
November came and went, and the constant drinking started to get on their nerves. They drank, drank, and drank until they cried and cringed in torment. Then one night, Jimmy came near the door of death. He had a fever and was delirious, trembling. In agony, he cried, "Get me a doctor. You can't let me lie here and die." But they were forty miles from Dawson City; it was forty below zero, and the snows were deep. Then Conlee remembered that in the old trunk was a medicine chest, so he brought it out, opened it, and out fell a little black Book.
Wally said, "What you got, Conlee?" "It's a Bible, curse it!" Conlee strode over to the stove, but as he lifted up the lid to throw it in, Wally shouted, "Don't throw it in, man! Don't you know we haven't a thing to read in this godforsaken country," and he snatched it from his hand. Then Joe saw the words written on the front page: "To my darling Daddy, with love from Florence." He was a little more sober now. "My little girl! I'm glad I didn't burn the Book my little Florrie gave me."
The medicine commenced to work, and Jimmy began to recover. As he was healing, he started to read the Bible, but he had a habit of reading out loud. Joe would tell him to shut up, but Wally was interested. He would say, "I had no idea there were things like that in the Bible. What do you say if we read it just to pass the time, not to believe it."
So they took turns reading and unknown to them, a change was coming into the Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile. The whiskey barrel went down more slowly. Some days they would read five, six, and seven chapters, and when they came to the New Testament, the curses became fewer and the whiskey barrel began to be left alone.
Christmas came. They read the story of the Birth of Christ. January came and they started reading the Gospel of St. John. Then in February came the fateful day - it was Wally's turn to read: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it mere not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Joe's hand brushed across his eyes. "What's the matter, Joe?" "Nothing!" "Were you crying, Joe?" "Yes, go ahead. I am thinking about my little girl. I am not crying because of that Bible."
Then Wally said, "I'd like to know if this Book is true. For the last five days I've been wanting to pray, but I was scared you fellows would laugh at me, but I won't be scared any more. I'll ask God, if there is a God, to speak to me." Joe said, "Well, since you have committed yourself, I'll tell you that my heart has been broken for the last week. I can hear my mother back in Iowa praying, though she is now in Glory. What about you, Jimmy?" "If you fellows want to pray, I'll pray with you."
Three old drunken men in the Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile got down on their knees to pray. Their prayers rose higher and higher. Suddenly, Wally jumped to his feet, "Hallelujah! Jesus heard me!" Then up jumped Jimmy, and then Joe Conlee-- both were shouting glory! Into that Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile had come the Man with the spotless, seamless robe. I can see Him standing in the Spirit by the old Yukon stove as He laid His hands on their bowed heads, as Joe, Jimmy, and Wally were born again by the Spirit of God that night.
Several years later, I was holding meetings in Eugene, Oregon, and I was introduced to the Dean of the Bible School there, Dr. Joseph Conlee, and his wife, and daughter Florence. Just before I was to leave, Dr. Conlee asked me to come to his room and to bring paper and pencil with me.
He said, "I am not long for this world. I am going home to be with Jesus, but I have been praying and I believe God wants my story written down." He began, "You will have to forgive me if I cry a little, but I want to begin at the very beginning," and he told me the story as I have related it to you.
I went on toYakima for a series of meetings. During the first week I was told by a student, sent from the Bible School, that "Dr. Joe" had gone to Glory. When he knew he was going, he sent for her and told her to tell me that Jesus, who found him in the Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile, was with him. Then he laid his head back on his pillow and was gone.
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From: Wayne Warner
Sent : Sunday, March 7, 2004 2:20 PM
To : [email protected]
Subject : Cabin on the Lonely 40 Mile
"Dear Kraig: I went on your web site tonight because a New York pastor called to ask me about “The Cabin on the Lonely 40 Mile.” Thanks for providing this and other gospel literature on the internet. I have one correction concerning the author of the tract. It was Dr. Charles S. Price, a Pentecostal Evangelist. He has it in one of his early magazines (Golden Grain), which we have in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (Assemblies of God, Springfield MO).
You can go on our web site [www.agheritage.org] for items on Charles Price.
Just some info that your site and the Gospel Tract Society apparently does not have concerning “The Lonely Cabin on the 40 Mile.” You say author unknown. It was written by Dr. Charles S. Price, a California evangelist between 1922-47. We have it in Price’s magazine, Golden Grain. Other printings and history give Price credit.
When I was a member of Lighthouse Temple (Open Bible), Eugene, OR in the late 1950s, Joseph Conlee’s widow was still in the church. Their granddaughter still lives in Eugene, as far as I know. Eugene Bible College produced a drama of the story a few years ago. And at one time they had a dormitory named after Conlee.
Best wishes in your ministry on the web site."
Wayne Warner, Director
Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
Web site: www.agheritage.org
Kraig's Note: originally I had the author of this tract listed as unknown, but thanks to Wayne Warner's help, I have listed it as Dr. Charles S. Price.