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Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989


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           THROUGHOUT the colonial period, North Carolina had been an object of the benevolence of religious societies in Europe and in the northern colonies. The American Revolution threw the organized religious societies within the Province upon their own resources. By 1790 a few of the denominations were strong enough to begin benevolent enterprises of their own so that not many years of the ante-bellum period had passed before practically every denomination in the State was fostering some kind of "humanitarian enterprise." Nevertheless, North Carolina continued to be a fertile mission field for the North during the ante-bellum period because of the State's "benighted mountainous region," its scattered groups of Indians, and its slave population.

           It was customary during the ante-bellum period for religious societies to classify all activities of the church, which did not bear directly upon the church service, as "systematic benevolence." Thus, the fostering of education, the distribution of the Bible and of religious pamphlets, the cultivation of "the waste places" at home and abroad, the religious instruction of the young and of the Negroes, the care of superannuated ministers, and the relief of the poor were all considered objects of benevolence. Following England and the North, denominations in North Carolina began to organize "benevolent societies" early in the nineteenth century.


           Missionary work was the form of benevolence to which most churches brought the greatest enthusiasm. Although the home missionary work was begun earlier than the foreign missionary work, the church congregations never contributed as freely to it as they did to the foreign "cause."

           The Methodist Church based its plan of winning members upon the missionary idea. The circuit riders were the home missionaries of the Methodist Church; and, from the coming of Robert Williams

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in 1773, they carried the gospel message to the people of North Carolina. At first the responsibility for keeping up the missionary work rested upon the General Conference. Soon, however, the circuits paid the salaries of their own riders. It was not until 1819 that the missionary work became a separate phase of church activity with the organization of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and it was not until 1828 that the General Conference recommended that the state conferences organize auxiliary societies. 1 By 1855 the Methodist Church had twelve missions in North Carolina, six for the religious instruction of slaves and six for spreading the faith in the "waste places" of the State. 2

           Presbyterian ministers in colonial North Carolina spent much of their time doing missionary work, as did ministers of other denominations in the Province, and as early as 1791 the Synod of the Carolinas began a definite home missionary program. The Synod appointed four missionaries that year "to act in the destitute regions each side of the Alleghanies" with instructions "not to tarry longer than three weeks at the same time in the bounds of twenty miles." 3

By 1803 the Synod had eight missionaries in the field, one of whom was a missionary to the Catawba Indians. In 1812 the General Assembly took over the mission cause and for the next forty years the Synod, now the Synod of North Carolina, showed little interest in home missions. The Presbyterian Missionary Society of North Carolina which had been organized prior to 1817 was short lived. A prevailing view that it was outside the jurisdiction of the Synod to carry on domestic missionary work on its own account arose after the creation of the mission boards of the General Assembly. There were some Presbyterians who, like the Primitive Baptists, did not believe in missionary work at all. The Synod left each presbytery to look after its own mission work with the result that very little was done toward spreading the Presbyterian faith. In 1822, however, the Presbytery of Concord claimed to have performed the first ordination of a missionary that had ever taken place in North Carolina when it sent Hugh Wilson of Mecklenburg

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County to the mission among the Chickasaws in Mississippi. 4

           Although Concord, Fayetteville, and Orange presbyteries each had an agent for foreign missions traveling within their bounds collecting funds for the Foreign Mission Board of the General Assembly, it was not until 1852 that the Synod of North Carolina took its first real step in behalf of missions by appointing an agent for domestic missions and another for foreign missions whose duty it was to present the cause to the churches. 5

In 1859 F. K. Nash, moderator of the Synod, reported: "The Evangelistic feature of our church polity, after having been long neglected by us, has been . . . permanently incorporated into our measures for the growth of Zion. . . Twelve months since, it was a question of grave interest with the friends of progress, whether one Evangelist could be sustained in each Presbytery; now two are demanded." 6 Seventeen missionaries were actively employed in 1859 in "destitute parts of the Synod." 7

           From the beginning, the spread of the Baptist faith in North Carolina had been the result of itinerant preaching. Paul Palmer of the General Baptists, Shubal Stearns of the Separate Baptists, Robert Williams of the Particular Baptists went on long missionary journeys; and about the time of the union of the Separate Baptists and the Particulars in 1788, Elders Henry Abbott, Lemuel Burkitt, and Silas Mercer were leading in the work of itinerancy. Elder David Barrow, pastor of the churches at Mill Swamp and South Quay, Virginia, which were members of the Kehukee Association, repeatedly between 1786 and 1790 urged upon the Association a system of itinerancy. But the churches of the Association, for the most part, were unwilling to contribute to the support of the itinerants, and the plan, although adopted, was never carried out in full. 8

           The Baptist denomination organized a society for the support of missions in 1805. Under the leadership of Elder Martin Ross, a group of Baptists assembled at Cashie Meeting House in Bertie County to form the Baptist Philanthropic Missionary Society, and

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made arrangements to solicit contributions from the churches. The work, as before, was handicapped by the unwillingness of the churches to contribute, and by the faction which held that evangelistic work was not a legitimate activity of the church. Although the Baptists established a mission among the Cherokee Indians in Western North Carolina about 1817, 9 it was not until the missionary group separated from the conservative Baptists in 1830 that the missionary cause got well underway. 10 By 1836 the Baptist State Convention had five missionaries working in North Carolina, and the congregations also contributed to the support of the foreign and domestic mission boards of the General Convention. 11 In 1846, the year after the Baptists opened their mission in China, the Raleigh Association ordained Matthew T. Yates, a graduate of Wake Forest, as their missionary to that field, pledging "to sustain him during life." 12

           The State missionary board had long desired to employ an itinerant preacher for each Baptist association in North Carolina, but "the want of pecuniary means and the difficulty of procuring the services of suitable ministers" made such a plan impossible. In 1854 the Board of Managers was discouraged, for the congregations and associations were contributing more each year to the support of foreign missions than they were to spreading the Baptist faith within the State. 13

Nevertheless, the board was able to employ six missionaries in 1854 for work in North Carolina.

           At its first meeting, the Convention of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina resolved to collect a fund for the support of a missionary for the diocese. The following year, 1818, the Convention organized a missionary society and announced that "a clergyman, . . . is soon to be employed to visit vacant congregations, and to

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give every possible aid to the drooping spirits of the friends of Zion." 14 Thereafter the Church supported its mission work with varying degrees of enthusiasm. In 1822 the Missionary Society had "the regular and occasional services of five missionaries," three in Western and two in Eastern North Carolina, but four years later the society was unable to employ a single missionary. 15 When the society was threatened with insolvency in 1835, the Committee on the State of the Church, reported sorrowfully: "We shall lose a Society on which the destitute portions of the State entirely, and three-fourths of our organized parishes more or less, rely for the ministrations of our Church." 16 The following year a committee appointed by the Convention took over the work of the Missionary Society. In 1843 the Reverend H. H. Prout opened the mission station in the Watauga Valley which later became the mission school of Valle Crucis, and in 1855 the Reverend Jarvis Buxton began collecting funds for a church school which he opened the following year in Asheville. 17

           The Lutheran, Moravian, and German Reformed churches also entered as actively into mission work as their limited numbers would permit. In 1810 the Lutheran Synod employed a missionary to travel within its bounds, and everywhere he went, in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Western Virginia, he found brethren who begged for preaching. 18

Three years later the Lutheran Synod was beseeching the Moravians to lend it "several Christian men to teach our children" Luther's Catechism. 19 This scarcity of ministers made it impossible for the Synod to foster a definite home missionary program until 1841 20 when the Synod organized a Missionary and Education Society with the hope of being able to answer the continuous calls for missionaries which came from Indiana. Synod also recommended that the various churches in the State release their pastors one month each year to visit destitute parts of the church in North Carolina.

           The first German Reformed minister to preach in North Carolina was pastor of St. John's Church near Columbia, South Carolina,

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who made missionary journeys into North Carolina attempting to organize the scattered "German Presbyterians" into congregations. In 1803, although there were less than a half dozen ministers in North Carolina at the time, the German Reformed congregations sent Samuel Weyberg, pastor of the churches in Cabarrus and Rowan counties, as a missionary to the Louisiana country. Upon the organization of the North Carolina Classis in 1831, the church received urgent calls for missionaries in North Carolina and neighboring states. In 1835 the Classis organized a missionary society and employed W. C. Rankin to travel in North Carolina and South Carolina. Two years later the society sent him to labor in the West. 21

           The planting of the Moravian Church in North Carolina was in itself a missionary venture. 22

Almost from the first, the Moravian ministers did constant missionary work, going many miles to preach wherever they were welcome, their work being, for the most part, undenominational. In 1801 the brethren carried out their long cherished desire to begin a mission among the Cherokees and the Creeks in Georgia. Although the ministers and even the laymen and sisters were constantly employed in giving religious instruction to those within their immediate neighborhood, it was not until 1835 that a group of Moravians organized the United Brethren's Home Missionary Society of North Carolina. The society employed a missionary to carry the gospel to the mountain folk of North Carolina and Virginia. He gathered a congregation known as Mt. Bethel near Mt. Airy, and in 1852 the congregation erected a church. 23

           The home missionary work of the ante-bellum period carried with it the idea of "spreading Christian knowledge." "Gross indeed is the darkness of many portions of our beloved State," reported a committee to the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina in 1850. At almost every step, agents of the Synod were finding "whole families, the children of which are grown up and not a single member able to read; others they find who have never heard a sermon of any kind in their lives. And hundreds they see bereft alike of the comforts of the life that now is and of the prospect of the life to come. And we do well to ask ourselves if, as a Church,

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. . . our skirts are clear of the blood of these souls." 24 Most of the denominations hoped to win converts to their own faith; a few were interested in supplying a rudimentary form of education to those whom they won. In many instances, the missionary society or committee assumed the responsibility of supplying struggling congregations with ministers.


           Ante-bellum churches looked upon the distribution of Bibles and of religious books and pamphlets as a phase of home missionary work. Scarcely a missionary ventured forth into the "home field" without a few Bibles or church papers in his saddle bags, or, if he was driving, a box of books in his buggy. 25

Every agent, or colporteur, as he was called, of a Bible or tract society was truly a home missionary. While attempting "to sell to the friends of religion in North Carolina at the cheapest rates that can be afforded, Tracts, Biographies, and other publications for the special benefit of mankind," 26 the colporteur scoured "the waste places" of the State, its swamps and its mountains, bearing "the message of peace to every house," talking of "Jesus the Saviour by every fireside." 27

           Years after the organization of the British and Foreign Bible Society but three years before the organization of the American Bible Society, a group of North Carolinians led by Dr. James Hall, a Presbyterian minister, met in Raleigh in November, 1813, and organized the North Carolina Bible Society. 28

The following year the society bought 179 Bibles which it distributed free, "to the joy of the willing receivers." 29 But the members of the society were slow to pay their dues and the organization was consequently handicapped by a lack of funds. After the organization of the American Bible Society in 1816, the North Carolina group became affiliated with it, ordering Bibles through the New York branch and making donations in its behalf. 30 In 1827 the North Carolina Society authorized its managers to employ an agent "to promote

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the circulation of the Scriptures," 31 and in 1830 the Society began a campaign to supply every "destitute family" in the State with a Bible. It employed several agents to distribute the Bibles which the society deposited at Wilmington, Fayetteville, New Bern, Washington, Plymouth, and Raleigh. At the same time the American Bible Society had an agent traveling in Western North Carolina. During this year the Bible Society supplied "more than 35,000 families with the Bible, and even then did not thoroughly supply the state." 32

           It was several years after the organization of the North Carolina Bible Society before county Bible societies began to be formed. These county societies derived their chief impetus from the American Bible Society. In 1822, for instance, an agent of the American Society organized eight auxiliary societies in two months: the Orange, Salisbury, Iredell, Lincolnton, Morganton, Randolph, Pittsborough, and University societies.

           It was through these county societies that the state and American societies distributed most of the Bibles during the memorable year of 1830. The Granville Society resolved to raise $2,000 during the year to obtain Bibles for the poor. 33

Before March the Caswell Society had supplied its county, was nearly out of debt, and was about to supply an adjoining county with Bibles. The Orange Society undertook to provide its county with 1,000 Bibles; the Guilford Society scattered books throughout its bounds; the Iredell Society supplied its own county and ordered 600 books for a neighboring county; the Wake Society met its own needs and gave liberally to the general cause; the Mecklenburg and Cabarrus societies were hard at work. 34 After having put Bibles into the hands of so many "destitute families" in 1830, the county societies and the State society, as well, rested for ten years or more from this emotional outburst. Some societies died out entirely, but the ante-bellum period did not close without its county Bible societies.

           Although interest in "the Bible cause" lagged after 1830, in 1845 the North Carolina Bible Society appealed to the churches to begin shouldering their share of the burden. 35

More than ten years prior to this, agents of the American Bible Society and the North Carolina Society were appearing before the various church organizations

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appealing for support and contributions. In 1834, for example, Orange Presbytery heard an agent of the North Carolina and the American Bible societies and resolved to raise money "for so good and desirable an object." 36 By 1845, however, most of the denominations in the State were fostering publication societies and were distributing Bibles and tracts on their own account. Bishop Ravenscroft was one among a few intelligent men in the State who questioned the expediency of the indiscriminate distribution of Bibles, but his protest brought down a storm of indignation upon his head. 37

           The State was slower to respond to the "tract cause" than it was to the distribution of Bibles. The women of Raleigh organized a tract society as early as 1817; 38

a group of Episcopalians organized the "Protestant Episcopal Society, for the promotion of piety and christian knowledge in North Carolina" in 1822; 39 but it was not until 1828, three years after the organization of the American Tract Society, 40 that agents of the American society persuaded a group of leading men in Raleigh to organize the North Carolina Tract Society. 41 The work of the North Carolina society was directed largely by the parent organization which maintained agents in the State to distribute religious literature among the people.

           One of the most indefatigable agents to labor in North Carolina was W. J. W. Crowder, who began traveling in the State about 1852. In 1858 he reported that he "scattered more than 521,000 pages of gospel truth" among 1,766 families. He found 274 of the families he visited "neglecting public worship, 228 without all religious books except the Bible, 83 destitute of God's Word." Nearly six hundred of these families had "never had a religious visit or prayer at their fireside before." During the year, Crowder conducted 79 public prayer meetings in addition to his other work, obtained 102 subscribers to the American Messenger and 178 to the Child Paper. He was shocked to find "the amount of bad

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books, novels &c." to be "quite numerous." "Even members of churches allow them to remain in their houses," he said, "and in many instances I know that their children's minds and hearts are sadly injured by them. And I regret to say that even some ministers allow such to be kept and read in their houses." 42

           Although the national church organizations formed tract societies at an early date, the Methodists as early as 1817, and began publishing pamphlets and books favorable to their faith, none of the churches in North Carolina, except the Episcopal, took up the cause actively until after 1840. The Presbyterian Church 43

organized a publication, or tract, society in 1844, the Baptist State Convention in 1846, the Methodist Episcopal Church after 1850.


           The instruction of youths in the rudiments of Biblical faith was a task which even the colonial churches with their limited resources did not neglect. Most of the denominations had catechisms which they expected parents to teach their children. Once or twice a year the pastor would assemble the trembling youngsters around the pulpit and put the questions of the catechism to them. There is some doubt, however, as to who is responsible for beginning the Sunday school movement in North Carolina. During the first phase of its development, the movement was considered a form of Christian benevolence whereby poor children might be taught to read and write. The Raleigh Register of June 4, 1804, called attention to the fact that "a Society is established in Philadelphia, for the institution of Sunday Schools, in which children are to be taught spelling, reading and writing, gratis."

           In 1816 "Tutoresses from Salem Academy" began teaching a Sunday school "at the House of Henry Rippel, Esq.," four miles from Salem. In a year's time twenty of the children who did not know their letters when they first attended could read the Testament. Soon afterward a group of young women in Salem taught a school on Sunday afternoons "for poor neighbour's children." 44

In 1816 the Lutheran Synod earnestly recommended that its ministers

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establish Sunday schools wherever possible. The schools were to be under the supervision of the ministers and to be opened and closed with singing and prayer. 45 In 1817 the Synod reported the establishment of four schools in Guilford County and one in Stokes. In 1817 Raleigh began a Sabbath school for "indigent children."

           The movement was so new that "Veritas," writing from Concord in 1818, lamented that there was not a single institution of the kind in the State. He urged "the Reverend Clergy of Carolina" to "communicate the subject to their respective congregations," for Sunday schools not only taught young people a proper understanding of the Sacred Scriptures but "directed their attention from Anti-Christian amusements on the Sabbath-day." 46

Veritas' letter was the inspiration for the organization of two schools in Cabarrus County and undoubtedly for many others. 47 In 1818 the Quakers began their "First-day schools." 48 Although Bishop Coke and Bishop Asbury in their "Notes to the Discipline of 1796" urged Methodist preachers to meet the children weekly in the towns and to advise and pray with children "in the plantations" whenever possible, 49 there seems to be no authentic record of a Methodist Sunday school in North Carolina earlier than the Hay Street school of Fayetteville which was established in 1819. 50

           These schools for the instruction of poor children were so successful that the churches began establishing schools for the "genteel." In 1821 the Presbyterian Synod remarked in its "Narrative on the State of Religion," "It is with pleasure that we learn, that almost universal attention is paid to the religious instruction of the rising generation. Sabbath schools seem every where to prevail." 51

In 1821 the Country Line Baptist Association also passed a strong resolution in favor of Sunday schools. In 1823 the Convention of the Episcopal Church recommended that all parishes in the diocese follow the example of the larger churches by establishing Sunday schools. The Baptist State Convention highly praised

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Sunday schools in 1831, and appointed its first Sunday school committee in 1834. 52

           One of the conspicuous ante-bellum Sunday schools was the Hay Street Methodist school of Fayetteville. 53

The school met for two sessions of about two hours each, one in the morning and the other in the early afternoon. It was supervised by a visiting committee, and the children studied the ordinary spelling book and primer used by the grammar schools, in addition to the catechism, the Testaments, and a Bible question book. The school also had a library. Most of the Sunday schools issued as rewards little red, blue, and green tickets on which Bible verses were printed, and in some of the schools the children might redeem these tickets for books or even for clothing. 54

           Orange County entered heartily into the Sunday school movement. Beginning with a small class in Hillsboro, the movement soon grew into the Orange County Sunday School Society. In 1825 the Society had twenty-two schools under its care with from 800 to 1,000 children in attendance "many of whom,--the children of the poor, . . . would otherwise have been brought up in utter ignorance and vice." 55

The Society petitioned the Legislature in 1825 to levy a tax in behalf of the Sunday schools of the State, but the Legislature considered the plan "inexpedient."

           The following year, the Grand Jury of Wake County earnestly recommended that their fellow citizens "encourage and cherish" Sunday schools. "Among the thousands of children and youth taught in the numerous Sunday Schools, in our own and in other countries, few, if any, have ever been arraigned before a Court of Justice for crime--especially for crimes of any magnitude," said the jurors in their presentment. ". . . And they earnestly hope, that by these means, the time may soon come, when the children and youth of every neighborhood shall be taught to read, and their daily habits become such as to present to our country the promise of a better generation than any she has hitherto witnessed." 56

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Others also thought that the Sunday school movement was an answer to North Carolina's prayer for common schools. 57

           Sunday schools were not maintained throughout the ante-bellum period with the enthusiasm with which they were first organized. As the secretary of the Baptist Convention pointed out in 1831, many country churches were totally unfit for Sunday school meetings in the winter months. 58

In many instances, congregations were so scattered that a school was not feasible. Moreover, it was difficult to obtain teachers. Yet, the movement was by no means abandoned. For instance in 1854 the southern division of the Methodist Episcopal Church had 208 schools in North Carolina with 10,139 officers, teachers, and pupils. 59 Beginning in 1833, the American Sunday School Union occasionally sent an agent to North Carolina, 60 but his work was confined chiefly to the remote sections of the State.

           In the late ante-bellum period agents of various national benevolent societies 61

began to create considerable friction in the State. Some of the agents were fond of writing back to the North of the benighted condition of North Carolina. Its people were "uncouth" and their "fare" was "rough and far from clean." The North Carolina Presbyterian hotly protested a story which appeared in the Sunday School Times in 1859: "This is not the first time one of the 'Union's' Missionaries has published a canard about the moral condition of North-Carolina. We hope it will be the last time." 62 The North Carolina Presbyterian began in the issue of January 15, 1858, to wage a campaign against the agent of the "American Missionary Society," an abolition society with head-quarters in New York, by advising him to leave the State, and in 1859 the paper called upon the people of the State to run the agent of the Boston Tract Society out of North Carolina because he was distributing abolition literature. 63

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           While distributing catechisms, Bibles, and religious tracts to the poor, many of whom could not read the books they received, the churches did not neglect entirely the physical needs of the poor, although they did not take into this work the enthusiasm that they had for the Bible and tracts "causes." Indeed, many of the church organizations left the care of the poor to the women of the congregation, deeming that this phase of religious work was "the proper sphere of woman." Relief of the poor had been one of the legal duties of the Church vestries in colonial North Carolina. 64

From the first, the Quakers and Moravians looked after their own poor. As early as 1696 the Quarterly Meeting of Quakers queried, "Are poor friends Necessities relieved and care taken for their children?" 65 They kept up the interest in their poor throughout the colonial period, and in 1805 Springfield Monthly Meeting appointed eight men "as a standing Committee to have care of the poor belonging to this Monthly Meeting, to administer to their necessities, and to see to the schooling of their children,--and to draw on the Treasurer of this Meeting for money to defray the expense." 66 New Garden Monthly Meeting soon followed the example of the Springfield Meeting, as, no doubt, other meetings did also, for the Discipline carefully pointed out the duty of Friends toward the poor. 67

           One of the standing rules of Orange Presbytery was that the poor of the church were not to be thrown upon public charity. 68

Late in the ante-bellum period the presbytery adopted a resolution that "at every regular meeting the roll shall be called and inquiry shall be made to ascertain if there are any poor belonging to our churches who are supported by public charity." 69 The presbyteries also provided for their superannuated preachers whenever they considered the need sufficiently great. 70

           In 1789 the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church directed that members of the society make a collection for the poor at love feasts and on sacramental occasions, and in 1800 the church began a systematic attempt to care for its worn-out preachers and

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the widows and orphans of preachers. 71 A correspondent of the Richmond Christian Advocate estimated that in 1856 the North Carolina Conference ranked fifth among the twenty-one conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in the support of superannuated preachers. 72 Until 1841 the Episcopal Church made no provision for "destitute clergymen." Thereafter the Convention called upon the churches to contribute to a "fund for the relief of disabled clergymen." 73 The individual churches, especially those in towns, made some contributions every year to local charity. In 1841, for instance, St. James' Church in Wilmington gave $181 in behalf of its local poor; in 1857 it gave $275. 74 Although the Baptist State Convention did not undertake the work of poor relief until 1864, 75 and then only because of the war, many churches attended closely to their poor and regularly reported the work to the Association, a custom which is maintained to this day in the mountain associations. 76


           Upon the women of the congregation rested the chief responsibility for sustaining enthusiasm for church benevolence. From about 1810, almost every village church in the State had a female benevolent society. If a poor family needed clothing, if the church needed a new carpet, or the preacher a parsonage, the church turned to the women of the congregation.

           "The Church at Williamsboro, which four years ago was a perfect ruin, has been thoroughly repaired, and I feel myself in duty bound to state that this has been owing principally to the active exertion of a few ladies of the congregation," 77

wrote the Reverend W. M. Green in 1823. "A number of young misses, between 6 and 14 years old, have, by one of our young ladies, been formed into a society, and spend one afternoon in each week, in working for the purpose of charity," 78 wrote a pastor from Wilmington

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in 1824. From Fayetteville came the report in 1826, "We owe a new and handsome set of plate to the liberality of the ladies of the congregation"; from Hillsboro in 1828, "The ladies of the congregation made enough with their needles to erect a tower to the church." 79

           In 1830 the ladies of the Sewing Society of St. John's Church in Fayetteville organized a "school of industry." "Its object," wrote the pastor, "is the relief and education of distressed and indigent children. The School at present consists of nine children--three of whom are supported by the managers; these are taken from their parents and are to be bound to the Society until they attain the age of eighteen. Miss Braddy, a qualified communicant of the Church, superintends the laudable and benevolent institution. The improvement which the children have already made, sufficiently manifests its utility." 80

This school was similar to one maintained by the Raleigh Female Benevolent Society 81 and the charity school of the Female Working Society of the Episcopal Church in Wilmington. In 1839 the Working Society reported that it was appropriating $230 annually for the charity school which it began in 1834. 82 As early as 1821 the Episcopal ladies of Warrenton started a free school for poor children, 83 and in 1853 the "Ladies of the Parish" of Elizabeth City were raising $250 annually for a parochial school. 84

           The women were among the first to organize missionary societies. As early as 1810 the Hyco Female Cent Society, a Baptist organization, was raising money for missions. Groups of Baptist women organized the Female Missionary Society near Fayetteville in 1815, another in Edenton in 1817, a missionary society for the support of foreign and domestic missions in the Sandy Creek Association in 1817, the Little Ladies Mite Society in Raleigh in 1818, and the Women's Missionary Society at the Spring Hill Church in 1822. 85

In 1824 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina gratefully called attention to the benevolent work of its church women. "The daughters of Zion, who, in some of our churches, meet weekly, to offer upon the altar of benevolence and

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piety, the fruit of their own labors," said the report, "deserve the commendation and good wishes of all the friends of God." 86

           In 1818, ten years before the organization of the North Carolina Tract Society, two female tract societies had been organized in Cabarrus County, 87

and the Raleigh Female Tract Society was actively engaged in distributing religious literature. 88 Upon the occasion of the anniversary of the Raleigh society in 1823, the Raleigh Register of May 9 observed that the group had "already been productive of much good." In addition to these benevolent societies, church women sometimes had their own prayer meeting societies and their own Bible classes. 89

           It is no surprise that the women who took such an active part in the benevolent work of the church should at length ask for some voice in church affairs. A female correspondent of the North Carolina Presbyterian wrote in 1859, ". . . we may perfect ourselves in music and take a seat in the choir, or busy our fingers in fabricating ornaments for the church edifice, but is that all we are to be permitted to do? Are we capable of no holier, higher work? . . . As Southern women, we shrink from clamoring for our rights, we send no delegates to jostle with public speakers on the platform; but we would modestly ask of our brethren, wiser and more experienced than ourselves, to recognize and acknowledge our right to become their fellow laborers in God's work." 90


           Although at the close of the ante-bellum period women in North Carolina had just begun their plea for equal rights in church authority, a general movement had long since been underway for equal religious liberty before the law for all denominations. The first State constitution of North Carolina, like those of the other states which wrote their constitutions during the revolutionary period, contained definite statements in regard to religious liberty. 91

The Bill of Rights declared that "all men have a natural

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and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience," and the Thirty-Second Article of the Constitution, which called for a religious test for officeholding, was stated peculiarly in a negative form: "That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of either the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious opinions incompatible with the freedom or safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department, within this State." As if to offset this religious qualification, the constitution denied clergymen the right to membership in the Legislature or Council of the State while in the exercise of their "pastoral function." 92

           Some maintained that the religious qualification for officeholding was so vague and so contradictory that it was a dead letter from the first. 93

It was generally held that the term "Protestant" excluded from office not only Jews, deists, and "heathens," but Catholics as well, and that the phrase "religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State" excluded Quakers and Moravians. It was not until 1809 that the Thirty-Second Article received widespread discussion in the State. In 1808 Jacob Henry, a Jew of Carteret County, had been elected to a seat in the House of Commons, and he served throughout the session without his religion's being called to question. In 1809, however, H. C. Mills, without having previously warned Henry, asked the House to declare the seat vacant because of Henry's religious faith. The following day Henry arose to defend himself in a speech which was so stirring that it was printed and widely circulated throughout the states on the Atlantic Seaboard. 94

           William Gaston, a Catholic and one of the leading young lawyers in the State, was at that time a member of the House, and Judge John Louis Taylor, also a Catholic, was that year appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. The House of Commons voted that Henry should keep his seat. 95

As Henry pointed out,

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many who perhaps could not be qualified under the Thirty-Second Article had already held office in North Carolina. Only five years after the Constitution was written, a Catholic, Thomas Burke, was elected governor.

           When a convention was finally called in 1835 to amend the State Constitution, there was already underway a movement led by William Gaston, now associate justice of the Supreme Court, to modify the Thirty-Second Article. Although this movement had caused very little comment during the election of delegates, it called forth the most lengthy debate of the convention. The delegates from Orange County declared that they had been instructed not to touch the Thirty-Second Article. James S. Smith of Orange, who, with Jesse Cooper of Martin, was the leader of the anti-liberal party, declared that the Article was not meant to exclude from office any particular man or sect and that it should be retained as "sleeping thunder" to be hurled at a Danton or Robespierre who might in some future day attempt to usurp the government. 96

He also declared that a change would be too great a shock to the State. Most of those in favor of retaining the Article expressed a secret fear of the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Jesse Cooper declared that a Roman Catholic was "the very offspring of a despot." "Our fathers," he said, "knew what a Roman Catholic was." They were afraid that if they did not give themselves the protection which the Thirty-Second Article provided, "they might thereafter have a harder struggle than they had just got out of." 97

           Although the General Assembly of 1833 suggested that the Thirty-Second Article be omitted entirely, the leaders for reform could not wring such a concession from the Constitutional Convention. The compromise which the convention finally adopted retained the Thirty-Second Article, substituting the word "Christian" for that of "Protestant." Governor Branch was one among several who voted against the compromise on the ground that he would have nothing short of a complete abolition of the test. This substitution of words did not "cure the evil."

           After the convention of 1835 the question of religious toleration rested until Isaac Leeser, editor of the Occident published in Philadelphia, began in the fifties constantly to call attention "to

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the stain on American liberty existing in North Carolina." 98 In 1858 the small Jewish congregation at Wilmington petitioned the General Assembly "to remove from the fundamental law of the State this last remnant of bigotry and prejudice, . . ." 99 It was not until ten years later, when the convention of 1868 met to frame a new constitution, that this religious discrimination was removed by debarring from office only those who denied "the Being of Almighty God."

           Several cases arose during the ante-bellum period under the constitutional provision that a clergyman, while in the discharge of his pastoral duties, was ineligible for office. In 1801 John Culpeper and William Taylor were removed from the Senate because they were found to be actively engaged in ministerial work. Culpeper turned to federal politics and was elected to Congress. In 1820 two more cases arose. A resolution introduced in the opening days of the session declared Josiah Crudup, a Baptist, to be "in the exercise of his pastoral functions." In a debate which lasted a part of three days Crudup explained that no Baptist minister was a pastor unless he was actively in charge of a congregation. Nevertheless, the Senate declared his seat vacant, and he, like Culpeper, entered federal politics and served one term in Congress. After the conclusion of the debate on Crudup's case, Thomas Person introduced a resolution calling for the expulsion of Jesse Adams on the same grounds. Adams was removed but not before he had introduced a resolution calling for the expulsion of Person on the ground of atheism. The committee found Adams' resolution to be "a wanton attack on the character and feelings of Mr. Person" and required Adams to make a public apology. 100

In 1830 the House declared the seat of Amos Weaver of Guilford County vacant because "he was a minister of the gospel of the Methodist Church 12 months before and on the day of election." 101

           Some ministers maintained that since the Constitution barred them from office it also prevented their serving on juries. Despite previous attempts to obtain such a law, a bill exempting "all regular

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ministers of the gospel of every denomination" from jury duty did not pass the General Assembly until 1822. 102 It was generally held that ministers, because of their positions, should also be exempt from such civil duties as road and patrol work. In a case which the corporation of Elizabeth City brought against W. W. Kennedy of the Methodist Church the Supreme Court decided in 1852 that "ministers of the Gospel residing in an incorporated town are not exempt from performing the duty of patrol." 103

           The status of religious toleration in a given community cannot be judged entirely by the laws on the subject. It has already been pointed out that the Methodists were persecuted in North Carolina at the turn of the century. In Wilmington their churches were burned. In other places, rowdies attempted to break up their services and many cultured people looked upon Methodism as a religion for "Niggers and poor whites." After speaking in Washington in 1805 Bishop Asbury wrote in his Journal, "I preached to a congregation of very unfeeling people. The blacks have no gallery. The whites look upon us with contempt." 104

           Frequently during the early ante-bellum period the first church to be erected in a village was an interdenominational church. Any minister of the gospel was permitted to use the capitol in Raleigh. In 1802 a number of citizens of Raleigh petitioned the Legislature for a plot of ground and for the money to erect a free church. The Legislature refused the money but gave the lot on condition that the church erected on it should be "free and open to all ministers of every denomination." 105

In 1810 the town commissioners of Hillsboro petitioned the Legislature for permission to raise funds for the erection of a church for the use of the town. 106 The Lutheran and the German Reformed denominations sometimes erected buildings by joint enterprise. 107

           One such interdenominational church was Wake Union Church, about one mile north of Wake Forest College, built in 1789 and

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shared to this day by the Baptist and Episcopal communions. The house was built by subscription; after which, the people of the neighborhood joined in a compact known as the "Council of the United Brethren." Meeting on April 2, 1791, the Council decided that the Baptist party should have the use of the building during the first week of the month; the Methodist party, the second week; the High Church party, the third; and the Presbyterian, the fourth week. After some years, the Methodist, High Church, and Presbyterian parties withdrew and left the house in the possession of the Baptists for almost eighty years. About 1870 the Episcopal, or High Church, party came back and has since shared the house with the Baptists. 108

           In the first days of the Great Revival the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, German Reformed, and Episcopal ministers held revivals jointly. Soon, however, all denominations except the Presbyterian and the Methodist withdrew to themselves, and in 1808 the Synod of North Carolina resolved that "all unnecessary intercourse" with the Methodists "be avoided." Again, at the close of the ante-bellum period, denominations joined in union prayer meetings to carry on the work of revival. 109

The Lutheran, German Reformed, and Moravian churches were usually on the most friendly terms, occasionally calling upon each other for ministerial help in times of stress. Shortly after the formation of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the Episcopal Convention made overtures to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod looking toward a union of the two churches. The denominations exchanged delegates in 1822, but the Lutheran Synod declined the invitation to unite. 110 The Moravian and Episcopal churches were also on friendly terms since the Church of England officially recognized the Moravian Church as one of its branches. In 1857 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina and the Classis of the German Reformed Church agreed upon terms of union but the two churches did not carry through the proposal. 111 Occasionally, Presbyterian and Baptist ministers visited each other's churches.

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In 1794 the clerk of Wheeley's Baptist Meeting House mentioned the presence of "two ministers of the Presbyterian Order" at the usual monthly meeting. 112

           In attempting to build up the Episcopal Church in North Carolina, Bishop Ravenscroft was forced to combat these interdenominational tendencies with a vigor which sometimes resembled bigotry. "A mixed attendance upon the Church and upon those who dissent from her," he declared truthfully in 1825, "is . . . in opposition to her advancement." 113

The rancor with which religious controversies were conducted throughout the ante-bellum period points to the fact that interdenominational goodwill was the exception rather than the rule. A quarrel between the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in Fayetteville at one time disrupted the life of the town. Other communities also had their religious quarrels. 114

           Wearied perhaps by endless religious controversies and perhaps growing pessimistic with old age, Ebenezer Pettigrew wrote to his brother-in-law Judge John H. Bryan in 1844: "The Methodists are making a great stir in this country, I fear to very little improvement of the morals of the people. In truth to benefit the people by improving their morals is hopeless. I know no permanent change for the last forty seven years. . . . I know not what people are, in other places, but deplorable to say, with those I know [,] there is the smallest quantity of Christianity prevailing even among the professors, of all denominations." 115

           Despite this observation from a man who had seen many sides of life as a legislator both in Raleigh and in Washington and as a planter with many acres and slaves to his credit, religion had made tremendous gains since the opening of the century. Most of the denominations in the State had declared themselves in behalf of education and had erected academies and colleges for the instruction of their youth. They had established Sunday schools in the attempt to supply poor children with the rudiments of an education which the State was slow to provide. They had scattered tracts

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and Bibles in every county. They had developed a systematic attempt to provide every community in North Carolina with regular preaching. They had begun the publication of religious newspapers to weld together the rank and file within their respective denominations. They had begun to build parsonages and to provide in a small way for ministers in their old age. Led in some denominations by the women of the churches, they had begun to look after the poor among their congregations. The role which the church played in the everyday life of the people is yet another chapter in the religious history of the State.

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