R.I.P. Ed Stilley, God's prophetic luthier

Ed Stilley sings with his wife, Eliza.  Photo:  Still on the Hill.  

Ed Stilley was a prophet who fitted children with instruments of praise.  I've written about him in many articles (linked at the bottom of this blog) and stand in awe of the commitment he had to his calling.

Stilley was called by God to build instruments for the children of the community.  "Why would God do that?" you might ask.  The answer is simple (and I offer this as my own prophecy to you):  There is coming a time of worldwide praise and celebration.  God took the most unlikely person to make instruments for the 'least of these' in the community as a way of raising up righteous performers.  

By the time he drew his last breath yesterday, he crafted over 200 highly unique instruments to children.  Each instrument had it's own voice and was made for celebration and praise.  God equipped an army through Ed Stilley.

ABOUT ED STILLEY:  For those who never heard about this Ozark legend, I have copied the story written by my friends in the duo, Still on the Hill:


In 1979, Ed Stilley was leading a simple life as a farmer and singer of religious hymns in Hogscald Hollow, a tiny Ozark community south of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Life was filled with hard work and making do for Ed, his wife Eliza, and their five children, who lived simply, as if the second half of the twentieth century had never happened. 

 But one day Ed’s life was permanently altered. While plowing his field, he became convinced he was having a heart attack. Ed stopped his work and lay down on the ground. Staring at the sky, he saw himself as a large tortoise struggling to swim across a river. On his back were five small tortoises—his children—clinging to him for survival. And then, as he lay there in the freshly plowed dirt, Ed received a vision from God, telling him that he would be restored to health if he would agree to do one thing: make musical instruments and give them to children.

And so he did. Beginning with a few simple hand tools, Ed worked tirelessly for twenty-five years to create over two hundred instruments, each a crazy quilt of heavy, rough-sawn wood scraps joined with found objects. A rusty door hinge, a steak bone, a stack of dimes, springs, saw blades, pot lids, metal pipes, glass bottles, aerosol cans—Ed used anything he could to build a working guitar, fiddle, or dulcimer. On each instrument Ed inscribed, “True Faith, True Light, Have Faith in God.”

(Kelly Mulhollan of the duo, Still on the Hill wrote an entire book about Stilley and it's filled with amazing photos and information.  Your library isn't complete without a copy.  Get one here.)

ED STILLEY, REST IN PEACE:  I received the following letter from Kelly Mulhollan this morning:

Ed Stilley has left us.  It was an astounding journey for Donna and I.  He was in the hospital for a couple of days but moved to a beautiful Hospice House for his final 2 days. He was awake for our first visit and we played a couple of hymns for him but after that he was mostly sleeping.  On his last night Valarie, one of the grandchildren, woke us up at 1:30 am to tell us that Ed was at the end and they wanted us to come.  We all sang and played with guitars and fiddles made by Ed till 4:30 in the morning.  We finally had to go to sleep.  When Donna woke up this morning, she wrote a song for Ed.  A beautiful hymn just popped out. Nothing like she's ever written before.  She just did what needed to be done.  Notice the first line, 

'Down here on earth soft rains are falling'... 

It was actually a cool but bright and sunny morning when it came to her. 

Ed did not pass that night, but went on sleeping peacefully through the new day till 6:30, when he did leave us in a very gentle way.  It rained hard for about ten minutes exactly when Ed passed.  We could hear it on the skylight in the room.  Minutes later, a magnificent double rainbow appeared in a clear sky.  You could see it from the window.  We all ran outside.  Never seen one quite like it. 

We were all struck by the 1st lines of Donna's song. Finally, we all went to the chapel room with a grand piano, along with Stilley guitars and fiddle and we played and sang, Valarie leading the way with her fine piano skills with the family spouting out request.  Music was the primary means of communication throughout the whole 4 day affair.  I will never forget the acapella singing by his daughter, Mary Jane in the middle of the night when all was dead quiet.  It was an exhausting but precious time that Donna and I will cherish.


The Fascinating World of Ed Stilley's Guitars - by Shane Speal for Cigar Box Nation

Ed Stilley Five String Banjo Discovered with Hidden Windchimes Inside - by Shane Speal for Cigar Box Nation

Bluesboy Jag Explores the Secrets of Ed Stilley's Guitars

New Ed Stilley Exhibit + Video


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