Snake handler, 1985
Citizen-Times writer Henry Robinson wrote about Charles Prince, Canton bait-shop owner and snake-handling minister, in 1985. Prince, pictured here in a service, revealed how he had repented his sinful life nine years before—“to the point,” he said, “that I cried, prayed and shouted for about three days.” He believed what the Scripture said, “that signs would follow the believers”; and Mark 16: 17-18 about “taking up serpents.” Robinson’s article had been inspired by the news that Haywood County Sheriff C. Jack Arrington had confiscated snakes at Prince’s bait shop on Newfound Rd. in Canton in order to test them for poison and judge whether a crime had been committed. Prince said he was following in the footsteps of the Apostles, traveling among the poor and healing the sick; and it didn’t make sense to do it in hiding in order to evade the law. “It is believed,” UNC Press’ “Encyclopedia of North Carolina” states, “that George Went Hensley began the twentieth century practice of snake handling during the summer of 1909 in a remote section of southeast Tennessee.” In 1949, North Carolina classified snake handling as a public nuisance. On Aug. 18, Prince was bitten by a snake and died. Citizen-Times file photo by Bob Scott..
--Rob Neufeld, RNeufeld@charter.net, @WNC_chronicler