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(title page) Biography of Rev. David Smith, of the A. M. E. Church Being a Complete History, Embracing over Sixty Years' Labor in the Advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom on Earth. Including "The History of the Origin and Development of Wilberforce University."
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[Title Page Image]
The idea of writing and giving the Church and community the advantage of my experience and such facts as came under my personal observation during the many years of labor I have spent in the A. M. E. Church, has occupied my attention for years. In the sun-set of my days upon earth I am seriously impressed with the duty of publishing my life in the form of a history that generations yet unborn might know that David Smith lived and labored for the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom on earth, and that my life was spent as a sacrifice (according to my limited ability) to better the condition of
my fellow-man. Just before the civil war I undertook the task of having my life published. I had it all prepared for the press and placed in the hands of a white brother to have it published. This dear brother was then in the M. E. Book Concern at Cincinnati, and when I heard from him, he informed me the manuscript was misplaced. I then became very much discouraged and gave up the notion of any further attempt of publishing my life, until last fall, September 1880, at the session of the Ohio Annual Conference, which met in Columbus, Ohio, on the 13th of September, 1880. In the evening, the Semi-Centinary Celebration of the Ohio Conference was held in St. Paul's A. M. E. church, Columbus, O. I was called upon to say something in regard to my connection with the A. M. E. Church and my labors in the Ohio Annual Conference. I had stated imperfectly some of my labors in the Church, and after the Conference closed its session, the
young pastor, Rev. John Coleman, who was appointed to the Xenia station by Bishop James A. Shorter, called upon me and stated to me how much he was interested in my remarks. He said he thought the Church and community ought to have the advantage of my history before I departed this life. I carefully considered the matter, and finally concluded I would publish my biography if he would assist me in its preparation. He agreed and inside of four months I present this imperfect little book.
I hope it may be interesting, useful, and find favor in the eyes of the Church and community, as one of the last acts of my life on earth. And when my body sleeps in the silent grave and my spirit is at rest, I trust this book may speak for me.
I was born March 10th, 1784, nine miles from Baltimore, Baltimore county, Maryland; on Major Rutter's farm. I was sold from this place to a Spanish Consul, by the name of John Burnibue. I lived with Mr. Burnibue until I was eight or nine years of age. The family were all Roman Catholics except Mr. Burnibue's wife's sister, whose name was Matilda White. She was a young lady possessed of fine feelings and great sympathy. The family of Mrs. Burnibue was in humble circumstances in life. Miss Matilda White obtained the position of house-keeper for Mr. Burnibue; she had the entire care of the household affairs, and thereby releasing Mrs. Burnibue of the house duties and domestic cares, thus allowing her
to become the equal companion of Mr. Burnibue and his associates. I was entrusted entirely to the care of Miss Matilda White, and her fine feelings and great sympathy always kept her above prejudice and partiality, hence she treated me as kindly as she did the rest of the family.
The Catholics were then, as they are now, very strict and devoted to their religious faith. One of the rules of the family was that I should attend the Catholic church with the children of the family; this we did whenever the weather and health permited--there was no excuse for us children. I remember the method by which we were punished for our misbehavior, it was after this manner:
She seldom ever whipped us, but would shut us up in the closet and tell us how the Saviour was displeased with our bad conduct, and thus make us feel very penitent for our sins.
While I was attending the Catholic church I was very much charmed with the organ and the the delightful music rendered Sabbath after Sabbath, and from that day until now, I have ever been a lover of music, although I am not talented in this useful and interesting art.
Now, I wish to mention an important fact connected with my liberation. Miss Matilda White
was uncommonly poor, and at the time of the rebuilding of the Episcopal church in Charles street, Baltimore, Parson Ben (so called by the community in general at that time) instituted a lottery for the benefit of the Church. Miss Matilda White, thinking a great deal of me, gave me five dollars with which to purchase a ticket for her. She drew $12,000 with it, and for me, her luck was my temporal salvation, as you shall soon see. Shortly after Miss Matilda drew this fortune, I embraced the Christian religion; then I began to labor under many difficulties from the family on account of my religious profession. No one knows the bitter feeling a devoted Catholic has towards a Protestant, but he who has experienced it as I did in the case under consideration.
My warm affections, just renewed by the Spirit of God, inclined me toward the Methodists, but the very name of a Methodist was obnoxious to a Roman Catholic, hence my afflictions became sore and many; it appeared to me that Satan himself was turned upon me and that I would certainly be destroyed. All the family became my bitter oppressors and persecutors, except Miss Matilda White. Mr. Burnibue was so enraged against me that he determined to sell me to a Georgian, which to a poor slave was the worst form of punishment.
I have never had such feelings before nor since. I became so disturbed about my situation, I plead with God day and night, for my deliverance. I could heartily join the Prophet and say : "O, that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears." For I thought I certainly would grieve and cry myself to death. The tears I shed, flowed so constantly that there were two briny channels made visible upon my cheeks. Right here I promised God, if he would interpose and deliver me from this affliction, I would be an humble, faithful and obedient servant all the days of my life. I used as a plea the power he had exercised in freeing me from sin. I knew very well, if God was able to deliver me from the corrupt influence of the world and the power of Satan, that he was able to deliver me from this slave-holder. Yet I was like many others, I did not see by what method he would secure my deliverance. Still with child-like simplicity I trusted him, though I did not understand then as I do now, the sentiment or that good hymn:
"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head."
I was advertised for sale in the Baltimore papers, and this kind of statement was made:
"No one can buy him but a Georgian."
It seemed that nothing would satisfy Mr. Burnibue's hatred and bitter feeling against me, but my shipment to Georgia. Still I waited the appointed time until my deliverer came. The Lord moved in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. I now close this chapter and hasten to my mysterious redemption.
Miss Matilda White, unbeknown to me, had skillfully arranged to defeat Mr. John Burnibue's evil designs, and, therefore, consulted a Georgia slave-buyer and provided him with the means and instructed him to buy me for her. Her intention to set me free was kept a profound secret from Mr. Burnibue, and, also, from the Georgian; for if it had been known to either or both, the plan could not have been worked so successfully as it was, for Mr. Burnibue would not have permitted her to buy me; and, just to think, this wise and blessed woman never even hinted to me her intention to set me free. This, I regarded as a wise step in her, for if I had known it, I might have
been overjoyed and revealed her plan and might have been the means of her being defeated. I was sold at home between nine and ten o'clock in the morning (the precise date unknown). As I came down stairs from Mr. Burnibue's office (his private office) I met Miss Matilda White, and the Georgian handed her a bill of sale for me, and immediately she took me to a lawyer's office (Mr. Heath's). He wrote my free papers, and, in company with Miss Matilda White, the lawyer went to the court-house and had them recorded. This was on the day I was sold, and I received a copy of the same.
I said, now I am free--both soul and body. My heart was so rejoiced I did not know hardly what to say, yet I said, "Glory to God in the highest." Here, with gratitude and thankfulness, I made many promises to God which, in the long line of my life, have been motives to noble enterprises for God and humanity. I consecrated myself to God and my whole life to better the condition of my people. Ever since then, the cause of the Lord has prospered in the hands of his humble servant, of which I shall speak more elaborately in the future.
"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."
According to the rules and discipline of the Church, I joined on six month's probation. As nearly as I can recollect, I was about twelve years old. The Rev. Nasey Schin was then pastor of Sharp and Light street Churches, the only colored Churches in Baltimore at that time. When my probation was out (the six months) I was then received into full membership, and very soon after I requested the Rev. Schin to give me a permit to hold prayer-meetings in private houses, which he consented to do.
I perceived the Lord had found me standing in the market place idle and said unto me, "Go work in my vineyard, and whatever is right I will pay thee." And, thus being moved by the Spirit of the Lord, I commenced my labors for the Lord Jesus. I held prayer-meetings in different parts of the city, telling my Christian experience and how God had delivered me from the devil and slavery.
A great revival followed my humble efforts, so much so the people and pastors of Baltimore became
so intensely interested in my success, that I became a public talk, both from the pulpits and also in the streets of the city. This deep interest in me and my success continued for a considerable while, and both white and colored people became my friends and had the greatest respect for me.
But, alas! a cloud of opposition arose. I perceived that I was not going to have it pleasant all the while. Soon my own people became jealous of me and my work, thinking and saying that I was too young to be allowed to carry on these meetings; but the white people thought differently, for many of their servants were professing the Christian religion at these meetings and, consequently, made better servants; hence, they spoke well of me and did all they could to protect and enhance my efforts.
At this time there were no licensed preachers among my people. The highest position to which the colored ministry attained in the M. E. Church was to an Exhorter. These were spiritual overseers of the black sheep of the Redeemer's fold. Whenever the dark-skinned sheep went astray, the colored Exhorters reported them to the Quarterly Conference and the Elders of the M. E. Church, and the Elders and Conference would deal with them according to their offense, and would often
turn these colored people out of the Church. The colored people had several Exhorters in the city of Baltimore at that time.
There were Fathers Dublin, John Why, Pikinhill, Chrisphus, and others; these constituted the leading Exhorters of Baltimore. At the white Quarterly Conference, these Exhorters complained against me. They said I was too fast for a young man; and these Exhorters could not read, nor could I, at that time. They acknowledged that I was a pious young man, but they made this objection: that I said more about the Scriptures than they, who were older and much more experienced than myself. The Conference listened patiently to their complaints against me. The Elder said he would attend some of my meetings and see how I carried them on. This he did unbeknown to me.
I remember at the last prayer-meeting I held just before the quarterly meeting, the pastor, unbeknown to me, brought the Presiding Elder with him to my meeting. At the ensuing Quarterly Conference the Presiding Elder stated that he had visited one of my meetings, and he said I was doing a good work; and from that time there was no further dispute about me and my work. The Quarterly Conference immediately voted me
Exhorter's license. I felt the Lord was fighting for me while I held my peace. Thus I was promoted to the rank of an Exhorter in the M. E. Church.
"He that waiteth upon the Lord shall renew his strength; he shall mount up as on the wings of an eagle."
I continued to hold meetings in private houses until I gained the affections of the people at large --both white and colored--more particularly the better class of my own people. I will name some of them: Alexander Murray, John C. Hall, Charles Hackett, Henry Harden, John Forty, Edward Walters, Stephen Hill, and many others. These were my particular friends, and God made me an agent in bringing many of them to love the Lord Jesus.
I organized a band of young men to assist me with my meetings. Among them were the following: Nathan Peck, Alexander Murray, Leben
Lee and David Cornish. These were my faithful and zealous friends and helpers in the Gospel. We were, as a general thing, excellent singers. This drew great crowds of young people and the better class of the aged. After singing, we would turn our gathering into prayer-meeting, which terminated in the conviction and conversion of souls to God.
Alexander Murray, like John the Baptist, was our forerunner. His duty was to prepare the place of meeting, and every Sunday, after three o'clock preaching, he would announce the next place of meeting. These meetings were held among the best colored families of Baltimore, and because the best families attended and took part in these meetings we had excellent order. The citizens had the highest regard for us. Tongue can not express the wonderful results which followed our humble labors in this part of the Lord's vineyard.
It will be remembered by the readers, at this time there were few free colored people in Baltimore, compared to the great mass of my people who lived in this great city. There was a large, and also respectable, portion of my people, who were nurses, stewards, coachmen and housewaiters. These were very largely influenced by
their owners, both in sentiment, fashion and expression.
Such men as Stephen Hill were the exponents of this class of colored people. His name will ever be remembered by the good people of Baltimore. So wonderfully was this great man possessed with native ability, though he could not read, he had such a remarkable mind that the oral instructions his owners gave him, made him one of the leading spirits among our people in the city of Baltimore. Brother Hill could see through and discuss like a learned philosopher nearly any subject, whether in science, philosophy, religion, or politics. The reader can not imagine the degree of native ability possessed by this man. There were so few men among us who possessed such talent as did Brother Hill that he was almost unduly admired and worshiped by our people. When such men became religious as they did, their owners became very much interested in me and did what they could to assist me, for such religious reformation made this class of men and women better servants, and by their good behavior many of them became free. Stephen Hill, Henry Harden, Leben Lee, and many others were set free by their owners on account of their good behavior and industry.
The work of the Lord prospered and increased daily. Souls were added to the Church, such as will be saved in glory. So successful was our evangelistic work in the city of Baltimore, Sharp street church became overflowed with hearers; hence the people were compelled to build another church in Old Town. In the next chapter I shall give some account of our labors outside of Baltimore.
It was revealed to me by the Spirit of God that my successful labors in the city of Baltimore had come to a close; hence, I was impressed to leave the city and go on the plantations. O, what an instructive lesson I learned at this point in the history of my life! The lesson was this: God will make thee the weakest of his servants whom he has fashioned and set in their proper places to work. Awful agents in his hand for good. "To everything there is a season." When God's appointed seasons for good have passed, the agents he has employed to work in his vineyard cease to
be affective, however strongly they may exert themselves. "The Spirit of God worketh in us to perform the will and pleasure of God and not our own."
I became very much perplexed to know how I should begin my labors in the field to which I had been lead, viz: the plantations. What to do I did not know, but finally it occurred to me, that if I would present the case to some wealthy friend of note and obtain his approval, I could possibly reach the field to which I had been called, and by some kind of recommendation obtain the favor of the slave-holders on these plantations. I presented the matter to Mr. John T. Barr, Esq. He was one of the largest dry goods merchants in Baltimore and then kept a wholesale store in Baltimore street. I had lived with him and he had the greatest confidence in me.
I stated to him what had been revealed to me; he then told me he would prepare for me a recommendation of character, and said I should have no trouble in this direction, and immediately he proceeded to write the recommendation for me. He went to nearly all the wealthy men of Baltimore and had them to endorse this commendation for me. Then I went out among all denominations, and all were willing to bear what I had to
say about the Lord Jesus. The Lord made our words like fire and hammer, melting the hearts of the unconverted and leading them to conform their lives in love and obedience to God's holy word. O, how it made my soul rejoice to see so many converted to the Savior!
The slave-holders became so favorably impressed with me and my labors that they would allow me to hold meetings two or three days on the plantations at nearly any time I saw fit to do so. The result was that many of the slaves were converted to God, and naturally they became better servants, and afterwards obtained their freedom. The masters of these slave people would assign my lodging and fare with the household servants instead of the field hands. This indicated the respect they had for me. Many of the masters, their sons and daughters were convicted and converted to God; hence they espoused my labors of love, and did all they could to assist me in my arduous duties.
I remember very distinctly of holding a meeting on what was then called Manna Hill, on the turnpike leading to Little York, Pa. The meeting was held in a school house; we commenced the service at 11 A.M. The power of the Lord was so wonderfully poured out upon the assembly, that
the meeting did not break up until 3 P.M. Here I saw the slaves and their owners singing, shouting and praising God together. All seemed to be one in Christ Jesus; there was no distinction as to the rich or poor, bond or free, but all were melted into sweet communion with the spirit and united in Christian fellowship; and to my mind they could have befittingly sang this blessed hymn:
"Blest be the dear uniting love
That will not let us part;
Our bodies may far off remove,
We still are one in heart."
We had many such meetings in those days. I could say volumes upon this subject if it were not for a more important part of my history. I now leave this present subject to speak of my departure from the M. E. Church.
"Farewell, dear friends, I must be gone,
I have no home or stay with you;
I take my staff and travel on,
Till I a better world do view."
Daniel Coker was the leading spiritual overseer in the Colored M. E. Church of Baltimore. It was his duty to watch over his colored brethren, take note of their condition and report to the white Elder; and the Elder's decision in Church matters was law to the colored brethren. Many of our people apprehended the wrongness in the manner which the Presiding Elder would often treat the colored Christian. They thought it was not a Christian spirit; therefore they became very much dissatisfied. Time had so altered things relative to colored preachers, that the M. E. Church now gave license to colored preachers, but these were only local.
The following are some of these preachers: Rev. Daniel Coker was the leading spirit, and the first licentiate in the city of Baltimore. Afterward the Rev. Daniel Moore, John Mingo, and two other Exhorters--the Rev. Jos. Touny and another whose name I cannot call now; these brethren came from Eastern Shore to the city. They were men possessing much talent and exercised themselves
in Sharp-street church. These brethren became very popular in their Church; so much so, that the local preachers (white) became jealous of them, for they received all the appointments in the colored churches. At this point began the bone of contention between the white and colored Methodists. The contention continued until the leading colored brethren and sisters of Baltimore organized a separate and distinct body of Methodists, which resulted in the organization of an A. M. E. Church in Baltimore.
The Rev. Daniel Coker consulted the local preachers (colored) and the Exhorters from Eastern Shore as to how it would do for them to be to themselves--a separate and distinct body of Methodists. These brethren opposed the suggestion, but the Rev. Daniel Coker continued to discuss the subject in such a way as not to allow them to take advantage of him and report him to the white Elders. He continued for some time in this way, until all hope of getting them to agree with him was lost. He then left them and called together John C. Hall, Charles Hackett, Alexander Murray, Nathan Peck, Leben Lee, James Touston, Charles Pierce, Richard Williams, Henry Harden, Stephen Hill (the wonderful man of whom I spoke in Chapter IV), David Smith,
N. T. Hammond and Faton Blake. All were pledged not to reveal the object of this council, for we were afraid of the opposite party, and that the white Elders would get into the secrets of our meeting and defeat our purposes; hence, the business was kept a profound secret.
We met weekly for a considerable while, instructed by Daniel Coker. Stephen Hill was our great lawyer. He continued to discuss the advantage of forming a distinct connection of Methodists, and we were all converted and sanctified to this end. I say sanctified, because not a man of us ever went back to the M. E. Church. To our great surprise, the Rev. Daniel Coker informed us, at one of our meetings, that there was a great disturbance in Philadelphia between the Rev. Richard Allen and some of the white Elders of the M. E. Church. The trouble arose, it seems, from this: The appointing power gave the colored people a minister (white) who was not faithful to his duties. The colored people became very much dissatisfied and began to murmur and neglect their Church obligations. The white Elder became much displeased at the conduct of the members, so much so that he threatened to turn them out of the Church as disorderly members, whereupon the members of the Church became
enraged and entered a protest against the retention and support of the appointed pastor.
The Rev. Richard Allen was the leading spirit in the great colored congregation of Philadelphia. He claimed the colored people built the church and, therefore, had a right to it aside from the appointed Elder. The Elder contending on the other hand that the property had been made over to the Bishop and Conference and, hence, it belonged to the M. E. Connection. Revs. Daniel Coker and Richard Allen communicated with each other upon the subject of coming out from the M. E. Church and forming a separate and distinct body of colored Methodists. The particulars were kept a secret between the Reverends Coker and Allen. Daniel Coker informed us at one of our club meetings, in Baltimore, that it was the intention of Rev. Allen and his congregation to come out from the M. E. Connection in the city of Philadelphia.
He obtained our promise at that meeting to come out from the M. E. Connection in Baltimore--and out we came. A great number of brethren and sisters came out with us. Rev. Daniel Coker rented a Presbyterian church in Old Town, so that that part of the congregation which came out from Sharp-street church might
have a place in which to worship. And the following Tuesday or Wednesday evening, we formed seven or eight classes. By Sabbath, Daniel Coker and others had agreed to buy a large church (in what was then called Fish street) for twelve thousand dollars--paying one thousand dollars cash, or before we got possession.
About this time Rev. Richard Allen and others were in great trouble about their Christian rights. The white Elder tried to force himself on them as their pastor. He made an appointment to preach for the colored people one Sabbath, at 3 o'clock P.M. When the time arrived, he came and brought other ministers of the M. E. Church with him. The church was filled and all the aisles were crowded, so much so the ministers and pastors were unable to reach the pulpit; and aside from the crowd there were brethren appointed by the dissatisfied part of the congregation to prevent the pastor from preaching that afternoon. The Rev. Richard Allen and others were assigned this duty.
[I do not defend or praise such conduct, but simply relate it as it is, and leave the readers to exercise their own judgment.]
The Rev. Tapseco (colored) was preaching when the white Elder and his associates came,
and when the Elder found he would not be permitted to preach for his colored brethren that afternoon, he said to the ministers who accompanied him: "Bear witness; this man has taken my appointment." They then departed much displeased.
On the following Monday, the Rev. Richard Allen called upon Mr. Paul Brown, one of the most eminent lawyers in Philadelphia, and consulted him about the Church and her troubles, and finally this counsel drew up a supplement which he (Allen) and his congregation--the dissatisfied part of his members--were to sign. The lawyer advised the Rev. Allen to convey this document to Harrisburg and present it to the Legislature, praying the right of church property situate in the city of Philadelphia, which property they (the colored people) had purchased with their own means. The Rev. Allen was to remain in Harrisburg until special legislation decided the matter. This he did. The Legislature granted the colored people the church property in the city of Philadelphia. The Rev. Richard Allen had nearly sixteen hundred members belonging to his congregation at the time, and when the news reached us at Philadelphia, there was a wonderful shout among this long oppressed people.
Then was it that the Rev. Richard Allen became so deeply seated in the hearts of his people, and this Christian hero remained the loved and admired until his death.
Baltimore was out from the M. E. Church three weeks before the Rev. Richard Allen and his congregation came out in the city of Philadelphia.
The representatives of these three Churches met in Philadelphia. Daniel and Admiral Coker and Stephen Hill represented Baltimore, and Show Hill Church was represented by preacher Chaney. The Church at Philadelphia was represented by Rev. Richard Allen, and his associates were the Rev. Tapseco and a school-master, who had control of the colored school in Philadelphia at the time. These noble hearted men were zealously affected and moved to organize a plan which would be the means of accomplishing the good
and glorious end sought, to-wit:--the elevation and education of a despised and oppressed race, not only in civil, but also in religious freedom. "Lord lay not this sin to their charge."
These Churches formed a Christian Confederation, and from that meeting the Confederation of the Churches appointed a Convention to meet in Philadelphia the following spring. No one can imagine with what enthusiasm the colored people of these two great cities were filled, over these encouraging prospects. The Convention was called in order to form an African Connection and adopt a discipline, and hymn books; and to make all necessary regulations for the existence of a great connection. I can not give the names of all the delegates appointed from the different Churches, but I can give the names of some, as I had the honor of being a delegate from Baltimore: The Rev. Daniel Coker, Mr. Stephen Hill, John C. Hall, Henry Harden, Nathan Peck, David Smith, and others, were also delegates. The Convention met as it was appointed, and formed a union of the Churches and established the intended Connection.
The next year a Conference was appointed to meet in the city of Philadelphia. The year rolled on and the Conference finally met as it was appointed.
The meeting was held in the Rev. Richard Allen's parlor, in Pine street, and there the Conference transacted its important business, and then adjourned. The next Conference of the African M. E. Connection, met the following spring in the city of Baltimore, Md. The Conference convened in a private house. This was the second Conference of the A. M. E. Connection that year--the first being held in Philadelphia, we moved in the spring to Baltimore and held the second. Mr. Solomon Doubton, who was then a prominent citizen of Baltimore, opened the doors of his home to accommodate the members of the Conference. He lived at that time in Spring street. At this Conference the Rev. Richard Allen was appointed to the pastoral charge of Bethel Church, Philadelphia; the Rev. Daniel Coker to Bethel Church, Baltimore, and the Rev. Chaney to the charge of Show Hill Church. The Conference was held again in Philadelphia, but I did not attend that session of the Conference. The minutes will show that Rev. Richard Allen was ordained Bishop at this session of the A. M. E. Connection. The Rev. Daniel Coker was elected Bishop in the morning, but there was so much dissatisfaction among the people, that the election of Daniel Coker was rescinded, and
Richard Allen was elected and ordained, April 9th, 1816, in his stead. The objection to the election and ordination of the Rev. Daniel Coker seems to have been on account of his color. He being nearly white, the people said they could not have an African Connection with a man as light as Daniel Coker at its head; therefore, the Rev. Richard Allen was their choice. He was ordained Bishop by Bishop White, a white bishop, who was then an active Bishop of the Episcopal Church, assisted by Absalom Jones, an Episcopal Elder then stationed in Philadelphia; and, I suppose, others also took part in the ordination of Mr. Allen.
The people every where seemed to be satisfied with this remarkable event, but alas! it was the destruction of Daniel Coker, and it pains me to make mention of this fact in my history.
The next Conference was held in Baltimore, and from this Conference, Daniel Coker was appointed again to Bethel charge, Baltimore, and also to lay out the Baltimore Circuit, which he did, and very successfully too, for Daniel Coker, I may say justly, was an exception, so far as his wit, talent and education were concerned. He was born in the pine regions of Baltimore county, Md., my native county and state. He ran away
when but a small boy, and went to New York, where he received a liberal education. Here he remained until he grew up to manhood. He then embraced the Christian religion, joined the Methodist Church and obtained license to preach in the Church. About the time this young man grew up, the colored people in Baltimore petitioned the wealthy (white) people to grant them a school, that they might educate their children. This was in opposition to the laws of the state, but however the wealthy people assumed the responsibility and granted the request, giving the free colored people a school.
When the colored people ascertained that they could have schools, by the consent of the wealthy white people of Baltimore, they sent to New York to obtain the services of Rev. Daniel Coker and another man by the name of Collins, as teachers of the schools. The Rev. Daniel Coker came, but before he took charge of the school he informed some of his friends that he had run away from the state when quite a boy, and had since resided in New York; therefore he could not appear in public until they bought him. After hearing this the young men of Baltimore raised the money and entered into an arrangement with a Quaker by the name of Ticin, to "buy Mr.
Coker running," which was done. These men then entered upon their duties as teachers in the city of Baltimore, and the schools prospered by their teaching and management, to a great extent. Mr. Collins was a great singer, and established the first choir in Sharp-street M. E. Church. The introduction of sacred music at this early date in the city of Baltimore accounts, possibly for the love of singing, &c., of which the Baltimoreans are so noted.
The talent Coker exercised, not only in the school house, but in the pulpit as well, rendered him very influential among the people in Baltimore, both white and colored. The whites who favored colonization to Liberia, thought the Rev. Daniel Coker was too intelligent to remain in this country. They said he should go to Africa where his talent could be exercised in the interest of his race. Mr. Coker was very much opposed to this Society and its intention, but the members of the Society continued to hold out inducements to him, promising if he would consent to go, he should be made President of the Republic of Liberia. Rev. Daniel Coker met with some misfortunes in the city of Baltimore and finally he consented to accept the offer; he went to Liberia, became President, and, I am told, held this office with credit until the day of his death.
After the Rev. Daniel Coker joined the Colonization Society, and was made President of the Republic of Liberia, the Baltimore (or Maryland) Conference, which convened in the spring, took into consideration the Harrisburg circuit, and the preachers agreed to keep up the preaching places which the Rev. Daniel Coker had laid out. The following are some of the preaching places: Little York, Pennsylvania; Wrightville, on the Susquehanna river, Columbia, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Shippingburg, Chambersburg, Greencastle, Hagarstown, Funcktown, and Fredericktown.
This circuit was more particularly kept up by Shadrick Bassett and myself. We traveled this circuit afoot, and had our appointments arranged for every two weeks. Great revivals followed from point to point. "The people were willing in the day of God's power." Scores were brought into the Church by our humble efforts. The white as well as the colored people were so much taken up with us that they would contribute very liberally to the support of colored churches.
One thing that assisted us very much in gaining friends and obtaining means to assist in building churches was the manner in which the Rev. Daniel Coker had began to lay out the circuit.
He went to the wealthy white people and obtained their consent to act as Trustees of the colored churches; and when I came on the circuit I presented to these wealthy people the recommendation which I had obtained of Mr. John T. Barr, Esq., of Baltimore, hence, they were more particularly interested in me, notwithstanding Bro. Bassett was the best speaker. Bro. Bassett thought it would be best for me to collect the means to buy lots and build churches, which I did there very successfully, and soon were seen the temples of God lifting their towering heads nearly all over the circuit.
The Rev. Henry Harden was appointed to hold our quarterly meetings.
The Church had so developed by this time that Bishop Allen had ordained five of his local preachers. Some were Deacons and some were Elders. Among them was the Rev. Henry Harden. You can not imagine what wonderful times we had at these quarterly meetings.
In those days when it was announced that a colored Elder was to hold a quarterly meeting, the people (white and colored) would come in the towns and villages from all parts of the country in great crowds. These rustic people were not ashamed to come to these meetings in road wagons
or in any possible way they could make it convenient to reach these blessed meetings. Often the meetings would begin on Saturday and not end before Monday or Tuesday evening at sunset. We would go out about a mile from town and hold what were called "farewell meetings." Many souls were converted at these meetings.
The following year the Conference sat in Baltimore, brother Bassett and I made our report to this Conference. The members of this Conference were highly pleased over the success which attended our year's labors on the Harrisburgh Circuit. I was then ordained Deacon and Elder, and returned to the Harrisburgh Circuit by the appointment of Bishop Allen. This year I had no associate to assist me in the Pastoral work of the Circuit, but I soon found the work was more than I could faithfully attend, for the Lord began to pour out his blessings upon the people as he did the first year, and our number increased daily. I
then wrote Bishop Allen, praying him to send me help; which he did. The Rev. Bishop Allen sent an elderly man by the name of Cousin. Brother Cousin was from Virginia; he brought papers with him, representing them to be from the hand of the Rev. Richard Allen. These made statements to this effect:--that the Bishop had given him the over-sight of the Circuit and that I was to be under him. He was a great speaker, and entertained and pleased the people very much. I submitted, thinking his report was true. He had no family, but I had, and he retained all the money gathered from the people. I wrote Bishop Allen, stating to him that he had given Elder Cousin the over-sight of the Circuit, and he kept all the means, and my family was about to starve. The Bishop said he did not give Bro. Cousin the over-sight of the Circuit, and told me to drive him off; but I could not do this if I wanted to, for brother Cousin had won the affections of the people, and therefore had the inside track of me; but at the next Conference he was tried and expelled for misdemeanor. The same year Elder Cousin and I had charge of the Harrisburgh Circuit, a trouble occured at East Point, between the white and colored people, about some Church property; you can not imagine the excitement
there was at this place. Bishop Allen ordered me to go there and hold a Quarterly Meeting. I soon found myself in the midst of this turbulent scene, ready to do what I could to reconsile these contending elements. Here (at East Point) I found brother Wm. Paul Quinn, he was quite young at that time, and a licensed preacher.
The Conference year came on, and Bro. Quinn made all the necessary preparations to meet the Conference which was to convene in the city of Philadelphia. There was a man by the name of Rev. Collins, accompanied and introduced Bro. Quinn to the Conference. Bro. Collins doubtless is well known by the old citizens of Pittsburgh, for he afterwards settled in this smokey city, and became one of the highly respected citizens of the same.
From this Conference, Bro. Wm. Paul Quinn was appointed to lay out a Circuit in Pennsylvania, which he was very sucessful in doing. In those days Bro. Quinn was considered to be a great man, though he was not very learned, he was both witty and talened, and these endowments enabled him to accomplish much in the behalf of the Church. His first work in the A. M. E. Church, in the way of laying out a Circuit, was mostly in Buck county, Pa. Take notice, Rev[.]
Quinn always claimed to be the first itinerant preacher in the A. M. E. Church, simply because he traveled his Circuit on horse-back, but I walked, because I did not understand how to ride very well. He rode horse-back in laying out his Circuit. The question as to who was the first itinerant preacher in the A. M. E. Church, was never settled between us. At the next Conference, which met in Philadelphia, Rev. Win. Paul Quinn made a very favorable report, which the Bishop and Conference received with much joy. The reader must remember at this stage of development of the Church, it was our custom to hold two Conferences during the same year. The first was held in the spring, in Philadelphia, and this was called the Pennsylvania Conference, after which Bishop Allen went to the city of Baltimore and held what was then called the Maryland Conference.
The Secretaryship, seemed to be the most difficult position in these Conferences, and why? Simply because there were so few men of color who could write sufficiently well as to keep correct minutes. We were often compelled to select persons as Secretaries of the Conference, irrespective of their religious or moral condition. Richard Allen, jr., was our first Secretary, he was
not a religious man, but he was an excellent scribe, and he filled the position of Secretary for several Conference years. His office was so important that he would leave Philadelphia with the Rev. Bishop Allen and come to Baltimore to act as Secretary of the Maryland Conference. Richard Allen, jr., remained Secretary of the Connection, until the Rev. Jacob Matthews joined the A. M. E. Church, who became Richard Allen's successor, in this position. The Rev. Jacob Matthews was an M. E. preacher from the city of New York. He moved to Philadelphia, joined the A. M. E. Church, and was stationed at Bethel Church as the successor of Bishop Allen, after serving his time with this congregation, Bishop Allen appointed him to Bethel Church, Baltimore, Md. Rev. Matthews was a fair scribe and an excellent man, very much beloved by the people. He filled the office of Secretary for a considerable while. The Harrisburgh Circuit was then under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Conference.
We will now return to the Harrisburgh Circuit. It was at the session of the Baltimore, following the Philadelphia Conference which met in the spring (at the time Bro. Quinn joined), that Bro. Cousin was tried and expelled from the Conference for misdemeanor. Now the Harrisburgh
Circuit by this time had become so large that it was thought best by the members of the Conference to divide it, so as to make Fredricktown a station, this was done, and two Circuits and one station was made out of what was formerly called the Harrisburgh Circuit. Then the people of Fredricktown petitioned Bishop Allen to send me to Fredricktown as their stationed preacher. This was very unpleasant to me, for I always had the spirit of an evangelist. However I remained in this station about three months. I felt as a bird caged, deprived both of the use of wings and free air. My habit had been to preach two or three times a day, and nearly every night to large congregations composed of white and colored people. To see the same faces and preach to the same people, night after night, became a painful affliction to me. I became so much dissatisfied, I left and went to Washington, D.C. At that time our people in Washington were very much opposed to the A. M. E. Church, and declared if any of the A. M. E. preachers should dare to come to Washington to establish an A. M. E. Church, they (the people under the M. E. Connection) would tar and feather them, but like the great Apostle of the Gentiles, I thought in myself "none of these things move me," for it was
my purpose to trust in the living God, who is able to do more than I could think or ask. Now with unshakened faith in God, I went to Georgetown, not knowing what would befall me. My only ambition was to preach the Gospel of the Son of God, that souls might be saved, and the kingdom of rightousness established among my people. While passing through the streets, I met a colored man who was leader in the Church choir. His congregation was then building a new church, he asked me if I was not a preacher? I told him I was; he then requested me to remain and preach for the congregation that evening. I consented, and preached for them; we had a wonderful time, eight persons came to the altar to be prayed for, and two of them came through that evening, and there was a wonderful shout in the camp. I wish now to relate a little instance which may be amusing to the readers:
One of the leading breathren was as happy as he could well be, and seized me around the neck and said "brother where did you come from?" I told him I was from Fredricktown, and that I was a Bethel preacher, of the Bethel Connection, "put out the lights!" and out the candles went. He did not only put out the candles, but drove me out also. One of the brethren got my horse
and commanded me to depart. It was about 12 o'clock in the night when he brought my horse. This kind of treatment was a sad affliction to me, for I was a stranger and a pilgram in that part of the country. You might imagine my distress, if you could for a single moment, think of this one fact, 12 o'clock at night, drove out of the church, unacquainted with any one, or place where I might find shelter and sympathy.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his Grace,
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face."
However I mounted my horse and inquired of the watchman the way to Capitol Hill, he gave me the directions, which I followed very closely. I crossed the bridge leading from Georgetown to the city of Washington. I was acquainted with a Bro. by the name of St. Cypian Beanes who was a noble hearted man and was then in good circumstances. He lived on Capitol Hill, and my purpose was to find his comfortable home. I was satisfied if I could only find him, God would open his heart and he would take one of God's humble servants and give him shelter. The watchman directed me to Bro. Beanes' house, and it was about 2 o'clock when I arrived. This dear
brother received me very kindly. After I had been seated for a short while I made known to him the object of my visit. He said my life was not secure, but if God was for me I would come out more than conqueror. He promised me to do what he could to assist me in the accomplishment of my intentions, but advised me to be very cautious in my operations. I spoke to him of the recommendation which I had obtained of Mr. John T. Barr, Esq., of Baltimore, Md. He said it would do very well to show it to the white people, but that colored people did not stop for this kind of recommendation. In the midst of this danger I began to study some plan by which I might succeed in my undertaking. The thought of appointing a committee of protection presented itself to me.
I commenced my work by selecting and appointing the best men (not Church members) from among those who were porters and waiters at the Capitol. These were to protect me in my intended work to establish an A. M. E. Church in Washington. The first on the committee were George Hicks, Dora Bowen and William Coster, runners at the Capitol, and two other names which I can not now remember. At the War office I appointed Wm. Deacher, Wm. Warren and others.
These men had wonderful influence among the colored people; and what these men said was generally received as true by the colored people of Washington. The news soon spread all through Washington that an A. M. E. preacher was in the city. The city was in great excitement. The people (colored) who were under the M. E. Church soon made me leave between two suns. Now, before I left Washington I obtained a written permission from a 'squire by the name of Jackson Chambers to preach the following Sabbath in his rope-walk. Mr. Chambers was an M. E. preacher (local). Brother Beanes was the chief agent in obtaining this permit, for he was well acquainted with Mr. Chambers. I then mounted my horse, crossed the river and came to a little town, about sixteen miles from Washington City, and stopped with a tavern-keeper by the name of George Cole, with whom I became acquainted at the Baltimore Conference some time before. Mr. Cole was a brother-in-law to Bro. Beanes, and both were thought much of by the wealthy whites. I arrived at Mr. Cole's tavern between 10 and 11 o'clock A.M. The slave-holders generally assembled here about this time of the day to drink and talk about their slaves. I was introduced to them by Mr. Cole. They were
all pretty much under the influence of liquor. I immediately showed them the recommendation I had from Mr. John T. Barr, of Baltimore. They then and there requested me to preach, which I did, taking as a text, John, III chapter, 7 verse; subject: "The new birth." These men were all much pleased with the discourse.
On Sabbath, I returned to Washington in company with a great many colored men, who went to protect me from the violence which they supposed awaited me in the city. O, just think, all these were slave men! As we got to the bridge leading into Washington, we saw a great crowd of people on the opposite side of the bridge awaiting our arrival. This was Sabbath morning, and I was on my way to the rope-walk to fill my appointment at 11 o'clock. We naturally thought they were there for the purpose of disturbing us. I was then advised by my protectors to take off my ministerial costume that I might not be distinguished from the rest of the company. I took off my costume, and when we came to the rope-walk we found a great crowd of people--white and colored--awaiting our arrival, and three constables to prevent me from preaching; but I had the written agreement from 'Squire Chambers himself, stating that I was authorized to preach in his
rope-walk on Sabbath. The committee of protection, whom I had appointed before I left Washington for Mr. Cole's tavern, met me at the rope-walk and showed my permit to the constables, and insisted on my preaching in the rope-walk that morning; hence, the constables abandoned the premises and I was allowed to proceed.
Among the persons who constituted the committee of protection which met me at the rope-walk, and perhaps the most prominent, was Bro. Beanes, with whom I had stopped when I first whent to Washington. My opening hymn on this occasion was thus:
"Thou Judge of quickened dead,
Before whose bar severe,
With holy joy or guilty dread,
We shall soon appear.
Our cautioned souls prepare
For that tremendous day,
And fill us now with watchful care,
And stir us up to pray."
I took for my text, John iv: 29: "Come see a man that told me all things that I ever did. Is not this Christ?" The text is so familiar to the people, even to this day, when I visit that great city, Washington, the subject and text is a traditional talk, for many of the people have the text written in their Bibles, and I have had to preach
from the same text several times to satisfy them.
After preaching in the rope-walk that morning, I told them all about the A. M. E. Connection and what the African M. E. Church proposed to do. I then called for joiners, and forty-three came forward and joined our Connection. We gained a great victory, and the meeting was long remembered by all those who were present. Many of those who joined us were converted that day and night.
I did not preach at Jackson Chambers' in the afternoon, nor at night. Some people might want to know the reason I did not preach in this rope-walk in the afternoon? Simply, because "the slaying of the Lord were many," and the people were crying for mercy in every direction. I then thought it would be better to wait until night before I began preaching again. Night came on and I went to Capitol Hill; the moon was shining very bright. I took Mr. George Bell's door-step as my pulpit, and here I stood and proclaimed the Gospel to dying men and women. After the meeting was opened I took for my text, Isaiah, 53--1: "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" A large crowd of people attended the meeting that evening. After preaching I again opened the door of
the Church, and twenty more joined the Connection. I then requested all the members to meet me on Monday evening, to be assigned to their classes. I then called my committee to meet on Tuesday evening, to take into consideration the best method of building a church.
We met, and Mr. George Hicks stated that there was an old school-house on Capitol Hill that could be bought for $300, but this school-house was on leased ground; but, if the house was fixed up it would make a comfortable place of worship. We agreed to buy the school-house, and the next night I made the intention known to the congregation (this was on Wednesday evening). I appointed a meeting again on Thursday evening, and told the congregation to bring all the money they could, for I desired to get possession of the school-house by the next Sabbath; and, on Thursday, we collected three hundred dollars and enough over that amount to repair and make the school-house comfortable for worship the following Sabbath.
The colored people under the M. E. Church had stirred up the people to such an extent that on the Sabbath, three constables were stationed at the school-house to prevent us from holding our meeting. We had the lease for the ground and a
receipt for the money we had paid for the school-house. Mr. George Hicks showed these papers to the constables and they left the premises, and did not arrest me as the enemies of the A. M. E. Church had intended. The next thing after we got possession of the school-house was the breaking out of a great revival, and the people fell before the Word of God like grass before a scythe. Prominent among those who embraced the Christian religion were Mr. George Hicks, who became an earnest preacher in the A. M. E. Church, and George Simms, an Exhorter. I took the Rev. Bro. Schurman into the A. M. E. Church and appointed him to Fredericktown to fill out the Conference year.
I returned again to Mr. Cole's tavern, and in a short while established a Church in the neighborhood --the congregation being composed chiefly of slave people. The white people thought a great deal of me because I did not say anything to their slaves about becoming free from their earthly masters, but impressed upon them the necessity of becoming free from the devil. I then went to Prince George co. and established a Church of nearly two hundred members. These three points constituted the circuit of which Washington was the head. I held a camp meeting
in Prince George co., and many were converted to God. The Rev. Jacob Matthews, who was then stationed in the city of Baltimore, assisted me in this camp meeting.
You will remember that I was to preach at Fredericktown that year, but when I took the Rev. Schurman in the A. M. E. Connection, I appointed him to the Fredericktown station, which he filled with credit and success. Bro. Schurman had a wonderful revival and many souls were added to the Church. Now, after the Conference labors were closed, I returned to the Conference, which met in the city of Baltimore, and made the report of my work, and there was great rejoicing among the Conference members over my labors.
I was sent back to Washington the following year, but I did not remain there; the Rev. Schurman went in my stead, as there were some family matters which called me home for a while. I was then living in Baltimore. When the Rev. Schurman had gotten as far as Mr. Cole's tavern, he was arrested and put into jail by the slave-holders, and the Churches at this place (Mr. Cole's) and the one at Prince George's were closed against us. I went back to Washington and continued in that city from that time until the Church in Washington
was a station, and I named the church Israel. After my departure from the city, the members bought a church under Capitol Hill.
Now, I leave Washington and turn my attention to another field of my labor.
The Rev. Jacob Richardson and I concluded to come to the West and labor in the vineyard of the Lord. We made Pittsburg, Pa., our objective point, and soon started for the Smoky City of the mountains. We arrived in Pittsburg on Sabbath evening, and there was great excitement over the arrival of the colored Evangelists. I preached at night. The following persons were living in Pittsburg at the time (I mention them because there are some interesting features connected with them and our labor in Pittsburg): James and George Coleman were musicians and Abraham Lewis was one of their associates; and, while Mr. Lewis was not a musician and did not play for the wealthy white people about Pittsburg as James and George Coleman did, yet he waited at the
entertainments of these wealthy white people. These persons came to hear us on Sabbath night, and all three of them were convicted and converted to God that night. James and George Coleman became circuit preachers, and were much beloved by all who knew them, as they did much valuable work for the A. M. E. Connection, James, especially; for he became a leading preacher in the Ohio Conference. Abraham Lewis remained a local preacher, but was very useful and highly esteemed by the leading citizens of Pittsburg. He was truly a light in the Smoky City, and too much can not be said of him as an exemplary man. He lived the life of the righteous; hence, died the death of the same, and to-day, doubtless, he is enjoying the saint's rest. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."
I remained in Pittsburg one week, and then proceeded to Little Washington, Pa. Here I met with some difficulties. There was a man living in Little Washington by the name of George Bowler, who was a barber and a colored man of considerable influence. He had written to Bishop Allen, praying him to send a preacher to Little Washington. When I arrived I found him in his shop shaving an M. E. preacher, by the name of Rev. Bear. Mr. Bowler was an Exhorter
in the M. E. Church. The Rev. Bear entered into a conversation with me (let it be remembered that all the colored people of Methodist persuasion belonged to his Church). He said to me in the presence of Mr. Bowler: "You have compassed land and water to make proselytes, and you will make them ten-fold more the children of the devil." After hearing this, Mr. Bowler said to me: "You can't stay in my house."
I then left his premises and went into the streets and inquired for a Presbyterian minister, for I knew the Presbyterians were kind and endorsed (as a general thing) religious freedom. I soon found one of that persuasion by the name of Rev. Brown. I showed the recommendation I had obtained of Mr. John T. Barr, Esq., of Baltimore. I also told him of my intention to gather my people together, wherever it was practicable, and form them into a distinct body of Methodists. He received and treated me very kindly. "If the Lord is for us, who can be against us?" After remaining with Mr. Brown that night, I thought the next morning, when I awoke, that "I must work while it is called day," and, "I must work the work of Him that sent me." After family devotion and breakfast was over, I started out in search of the colored people.
I found quite a number of them, but they were afraid (?) of me. I continued on my mission, and finally I came across an old colored man by the name of Dawns. He was the father of the well-known William Dawns, of Cincinnati. This boy, William, was then going to school in Little Washington. The young man grew up and moved to Cincinnati. I recommended him to my Lodge in Philadelphia to be made one of the first colored Masons west of the Allegheny mountains. Nearly all the old settlers of Cincinnati know him well. His widow, Rebecca Dawns, is still living on West Walnut Hills, Cincinnati.
I must again return to old Mr. Dawns, of Little Washington. He owned a beautiful grove, which was connected with a little homestead. He did not profess to be a Christian, and I explained to him the history and object of the A. M. E. Connection. He endorsed my purpose, and seemed well pleased with the idea of a connection being controlled entirely by colored people. I prayed him to allow me to preach in his beautiful grove. He readily consented to do so, and built a stand and made all the necessary arrangements for Sabbath afternoon's preaching. The Rev. Mr. Brown was so much interested in my success that he had written kind requests to all the pastors of
Washington, Pa., asking them to dispense with their meetings on Sabbath, in the afternoon, and they (the pastors) and their congregations turn out to my meeting. The Baptist preacher consented, but the Rev. Bear would not listen to it. However, we went on with our meeting, and it was amusing to see his people desert their shepherd and come out to see and hear an old colored preacher. The whole town turned out en masse to my meeting, for they had not heard a colored man preach in this section of the country before. I commenced to preach between 2 and 3 o'clock P.M., and just as I was about to close, Jacob Richardson came from Pittsburg, and read the preface to our discipline.
I then proceeded to open the doors of the Church, and forty-eight persons came forward and joined the A. M. E. Connection. I left one lone colored woman to be seated in the gallery of Mr. Bear's church. The galleries of the M. E. Churches were the auditoriums for the Ethiopian brethren and sisters of that day, and the rule of our mother Church was: "Thus far shall thou come and no farther." The Rev. Mr. Bear was much displeased with the movement of his African competitor. He tried to move the public against me, but failed to succeed. I told him that these
were my people and I had a right to them; yet this did not satisfy him.
The next perplexing thing was the manner of obtaining a place of worship. I was a Mason and proved to some of the leading white Masons that I was a true brother. I then told them my mission, and stated my purpose to gather up my people and organize them into a distinct body of Methodists, which was known as the A. M. E. Church, and that I had no place of worship. They agreed to allow me to preach in the Masonic Hall until the congregation could obtain a place of worship. All seemed willing to assist me in obtaining a suitable place to hold divine services.
Monday morning I started out among the colored and also the white people with a subscription paper and got about nine hundred dollars' subscription. We then bought a double house from a judge of the Court. If my memory serves me rightly, I think his name was Beard. He took the value of the subscription paper as pay for the property. We soon repaired the house and a revival followed, and soon had the town in what Mr. Bear would term an excitement. We soon had a respectable membership and a fine congregation added to the A. M. E. Connection. I remained in Little Washington a short while and then departed for Brownville, Pa.
I found the colored people here as I did in Washington-- those who were of the Methodist persuasion belonged to the M. E. Church. My first sermon was preached in the Friends' church. I remember a Quaker was convicted and cried for mercy. After this, the leading members of the Society would not allow me to preach in their church any more, because they did not believe in that kind of excitement. However, I continued faithful to my mission, and my people severed their connection with the M. E. Church without much trouble on my part--for they were like ripe fruit, only waiting to be plucked.
We worshiped in a man's house by the name of Norris, who was the father of Thomas Norris, of Pittsburg. Bro. Thomas Norris was quite a boy, going to school, when I established the Church in Brownsville. I have only to mention Brother Norris, for the old citizens and preachers who have visited Pittsburg, remember well his hospitable disposition and usefulness to the A. M. E. Connection in this great city. In the case of Father Norris and son, we see "Hereditable good is like hereditable evil, transmitted from father to son." We raised a large subscription in Brownsville, but did not build a church; for it was built after my departure.
From Brownsville I went to Pike's Run, and took sixty members in the A. M. E. Church. We worshiped in Mr. Pointer's house. From Pike's Run, I went to a little town (I cannot recollect its name at present), I was successful there, and took thirty members in the Church. These three points constituted what was afterwards called the Little Washington Circuit. The following spring, I and my wife went to the Baltimore Conference. We learned there was a great trouble in Bethel Church, Philadelphia; however the trouble did not take a definite form until the meeting of the Philadelphia Conference. The trustees and officers of Bethel Church had elected Bishop Allen their pastor for life, at five hundred dollars per year as a salary. Mr. Allen also held the following offices in Bethel Church, (remember he was appointed or elected to these positions before he was ordained Elder or Bishop), trustee and steward, and after his ordination, pastor of the Church. After the Rev. Allen became Bishop, the people became dissatisfied. They wanted him to resign all the offices in the Church except that of the Bishoprick. They wanted Bishop Allen and the Conference to appoint them a pastor yearly, and that the five hundred dollars they agreed to pay the Bishop for life, as pastor of the
Church, be paid to the pastors whom the Bishop and Conference might send from time to time. There was quite a number of the male members of the Church, who banded themselves together and drew up a petition, making the statements (as to his position as an officer of the Church) and when the Conference met, (the Conference was held in Bishop Allen's parlor) these men assembled in front of the Bishop's house, with the petition to present to the Bishop and Conference, asking Mr. Allen to resign his offices and relinquish all personal claims previously entered into by him and the congregation of Bethel Church. The Rev. Richard Allen refused to allow their petition to be read before the Conference. This created great dissatisfaction, both in and out of the Conference. He went further than this refusal, for at night he read these members out of the Connection as disorderly members. Some of these members were well to-do, and they went around on Lumbard street, in a stone's throw of the Bethel church, and bought a lot, on which to build an Independent church.
There was great trouble both in the Church and the familes of the congregation who belonged to, and attended the Bethel church. Husband against wife, and vice versa. The cloud of discouragement
hovered over the newly organized Connection, and the Conference was much afflicted. After the Independent Congregation had put up a building; they sent for Bishop Allen and desired to harmonize their differences and they remain in the Connection if possible, but the Rev. Richard Allen would not consent to their plans, and furthermore, they differed among themselves, and a great fight ensued and much blood was shed, but there were no lives lost. The part of this Independent Congregation which desired to accept Mr. Allen's plan of harmony, drew out and went in what was called Hurst street, and built themselves a Church. One was called Big Wesley and the other Little Wesley. Little Wesley remained Independent for a considerable while, and finally returned to the A. M. E. Church. The real cause of so much division among the colored people after the idea was obtained that they were at liberty to organize and carry on distinct and seperate religious bodies, was this:--a great many ambitious men came to the front to obtain rule and fame. I desire to name a few of such men: Rev. Thompson, Rush and Wm. Paul Quinn set up seperate Churches in the city of New York, and Rev. Peter Spencer, of Wilmington, Delaware, who met in the Convention
at Philadelphia, when the A. M. E. Church was organized. We do not wish in mentioning the names of this class of men, to make the impression that these were men of no influence and standing in the community in which they lived; for they were certainly men of means and influence. Many of then formed seperate bodies, some endured the march of time, while others faded away. It was with Rev. Richard Allen, Daniel Coker, Henry Harder, Stephen Hill and other intelligent colored men, we may attribute the origin of the idea of Christian equality, freedom and self-government among the colored people of America. The Rev. Richard Allen and his organization (A. M. E. Church) has endured the march of time, and perhaps it may be attributed to this fact--the A. M. E. Church started to catch up with the times and unfold her Christian character according to the progress of the present and future generation. The seed of energy, character and intelligence which was set in motion by these founders is seen to-day sending a healthy influence throughout the length and breath of the A. M. E. Church, and thus the Church has been throwing off the old forms and gathering new life and strength, as the years have come and gone. And now more than a half centuary finds her in possession
of great institutions of learning, and a publishing department, Church Organ and an intelligent ministry. After the Conference was over in Philadelphia, I took a respite and moved from Baltimore to Philadelphia.
These Independent members called on me, and desired me to preach for them as their pastor, but this I refused to do. They appointed a man from among themselves by the name of Edward Johnson, he took charge of temporal concerns of the Church. I want it well understood that I did not take any part in the troubles between Mr. Allen and his people. My peculiar disposition was and is to-day, not to be a secterian; but having an ardent love for preaching and being possessed of the missionary spirit, I was moved to go wherever there was a door opened for the preaching of God's word. I agreed however to take the Spiritual over-sight of the newly formed organization. I labored among then a considerable while; they wanted to come under some Connection; therefore asked my advice in the matter. I told them they could write to the Zion M. E. Church, New York, and form a Connection, which they did by calling a Convention as Mr. Allen and the founders of the A. M. E. Church. This Connection was afterwards called the Zion Wesleyan Connection.
The Rev. Mr. Rush was their first superintendent. He desired me to go to Jersey City, nine miles from New York; there I built a church and it became very prosperous. At this time the whites were mobbing the colored people and burning their property all over the country. I then went to Hartford, Connecticut, and established a Society there; here I became acquainted with Mr. Burch, who afterwards became a preacher in the A. M. E. Connection. He is still living and preaching in the State of Mississippi. I raised a Society in Hartford, Con., and then went to Bridgeport and built a church there. I remained in Bridgeport six months. I then went to New York to see Mr. Rush, the superintendent of the A. M. E.Z. Connection, he desired my ordination papers; I went into his room and he wrote on these papers, that I was a preacher of the Zion Wesleyan Connection. I could not write, or read writing; when I found out what Mr. Rush had done, I determined to go out of the reach of all of these contending parties. I concluded to come West, but I did not make my intention known to any one.
During the time I was laboring with the Zion Wesleyan Connection, there arose trouble between Bishop Allen and Rev. Wm. Paul Quinn, and I am not able to say whether the Rev. Quinn was
turned out of the Connection, or whether he left the Bethel Connection. However this may be, he went to New York and founded a Church with about one hundred and fifty members; but he did not succeed well with his enterprise. He requested me to come and hold Quarterly meeting for him, and while there the people became very much attached to me, and wanted me to take charge of their Church.
Soon Bishop Allen died, and Bishop Morris Brown filled his place.
At a love feast in Philadelphia, Bro. Quinn, having applied to join the Connection again, Bishop Brown brought the matter before the people and they consented to receive him with this proviso:--that he should go West and speed the Connection. This he agreed to do, and started off the next morning, and he as all know, was quite successful in his labors in the West. I soon followed him to the far West. I passed through Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, Ohio. I will speak in the next chapter of my labor in Ohio. The Macedonian cry, "come and help," was heard on the west side of the Allegheny mountians.
Elder Quinn was the Presiding Elder over the West. He met Bishop Morris Brown at Pittsburg, and came from there to Chillicothe, Ohio. I understand this was the second session of Conference which met in 1831. I had just arrived in Cincinnati about the time the Conference began its session at Chillicothe. I was then in the midst of a great revival in Cincinnati, and many souls were brought to Christ. Bishop Brown and Elder Quinn had written to me, informing me that it was the Bishop's intention to station Bro. Atchison in Cincinnati, and desired that I should remain and assist him in his pastoral duties. I consented, and through our labors many souls were converted to God. I wish to mention some important facts connected with the Rev. Atchison's year's labor in Cincinnati:
First.--I informed the people of Cincinnati that I was a Mason, and I called them together and we raised three hundred dollars in a few days. They immediately selected a delegation (recommended by myself) and sent them to the Philadelphia
Lodge (to which I belonged) to be made Masons. Mr. Anderson was then Master of the Lodge of which I speak. The delegation returned, bringing Mr. Anderson with them, and immediately began to make colored Masons in the West. We soon formed two numbers in the city, and from this time out, masonry spread among the colored people in the West like wild-fire. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth."
The colored people being wronged by the white people of Cincinnati, and having nowhere nor means with which to bury their dead, I proposed to form a benevolent society among the colored population of Cincinnati. A great many joined this society, and each member was to pay 25 cents per month. We soon gathered considerable means, and the society was in the act of putting out its money on interest when I persuaded them to buy a burying ground, which they did. This proved a great blessing to the people of color in Cincinnati. Then I proceeded to establish a Ladies' Court among the Masons' wives and daughters. This society spread far and wide in the West, and to-day it is very extensive. Many other such societies of the kind have been formed and have done great good to my people. I am said to be the father of the benevolent societies in the West.
I wish to make a short apology, not in the sense of excusing myself for having set these societies at work in the West, but I mean my apology in the way of deference for my conduct in this direction, and at the time I was so busily engaged in the noble work of organizing and carrying on benevolent societies. 1st, Societies then, and their use. 2d, Societies now, and their abuses.
It is a piece of wisdom, as well as it is natural, for the races and nations of mankind to be united in love and for the accomplishment of noble objects and enterprises in life. History proves that the most united race or nation has ever been the most successful and have accomplished the greatest good for the world. When I came to the West, and at the time when I was young and vigorous and in the active field laboring for God and the good of my people, "The people were like sheep having no shepherd," devoured on every side by the wolves of slavery, prejudice and ostracism. They were daily destroyed and wasted by mobs, both in the East and West, North and South. The great need of my people was "leaders" and "organizers." These leaders were so few and the wants of the people so many, that they were required to perform the religious, political, intellectual and benevolent duties common to the
race; hence, you can readily see why I was forced to the duty of organizing and carrying on benevolent associations among my people at that time and under those circumstances, and aside from these conditions which force the religious leaders into so many positions which seem unbecoming at the present time. The next thought which presents itself to us is this fact: The existence of the benevolent societies is justified.
First --There was no admission to the poor houses for colored people. They had no where to bury their dead. They were not admitted to public schools nor churches without impositions and afflictions; hence it was necessary for the people to unite and assist each other in these directions. No reasonable person will condemn these early fathers of the race.
Second.--Benevolent Societies of to-day, and their abuses. While I claim to be the father of Benevolent Societies in the West, I do not think that there is any just reason for the existence of so many Benevolent Societies, and the extent to which they are carried on by their leaders at the present day. 1st, the necessity for their existence is not urgent and plausible as it was at the time when I came out West. All have admission (with few exceptions) to the public schools, burying
grounds and infirmaries. Again the cities and towns have their organized committies to see after the poor and supply them with such things as they really need. Again, it is claimed that the Churches are vastly injured by these organizations, &c. I have only this to say among the last words of this life: If these Societies have become demoralizing to the Church of God, I say away with them, and let the present generation have some other institutions in harmony with the Church of God, and which will meet the wants of the present age.
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
The Church of God is the hope of the world, and in her triumph and success is found all the best interests and happiness of mankind. My prayer is that "the Kingdom of God may come and his will be done on earth, as the angels do it in heaven."
"Hosanna to our Conquering King!
All hail, incarnated love!
Ten thousand songs and glories wait
To crown thy head above.
Thy victories and thy deathless fame,
Through all the world shall run,
And everlasting ages sing
The triumphs thou has won."
I do not recollect where the Conference met following the session at Chillicothe, 1831. However this may be, at the session of 1832, I was sent to lay out a circuit beginning at Hamilton, O. The circuit comprised the following places:
Hamilton, Mason, Lebanon, Harveysburg and Xenia. These constituted what was known and called the Hamilton circuit. I made very little progress either temporal or spiritual, during the year, a black cloud of wickedness and ignorance engrossed the minds and hearts of the people. The whites were very much opposed to the prosperity of the colored people. The colored people and the abolitionists were persecuted and driven from their little homes which they had accumulated by hard labor. Their churches and houses were stoned and many were compelled to sell out and go to Canada. This state of things continued for quite a while. The mean and fiendish treatment the colored people received from the low class of whites, encouraged and urged on by the intelligent and wealthy, can not be described. The
fugitive slave law was in full force, and this hellish instrument made the low-class of whites companions of blood hounds and negro hunters. In search for the fleeing slaves, they would come in our houses at night and maltreat our wives and daughters, and we had no appeal, our oaths were useless breath and words spent to no purpose.
The Rev. M. M. Clarke, a scholar and the embodiment of manliness, called a convention, and he and men of like minds, established schools for the colored children, but these were all broken up by mob laws. The school houses were destroyed and the children stoned. After such fearful destruction of his school enterprise, he joined the traveling Connection and was stationed in Cincinnati--in this station he met with great success. From here he went to the State of Illinois. This eminent and enterprising man soon visited the continent of Africa.
I was again stationed in the city of Washington, D. C. He returned and was much deranged in his mind; this affliction came from family trouble which he encountered. We did what we could for him in Washington, and sent him West, and he became very useful again, and ended his days on earth while stationed in New Orleans.
I leave this point at present for fear the torch
of my indignation will be kindled and my manhood aroused to an unchristian condition. In the the sunset of my life, when the battle-ax (the ballot) which defends my manhood is placed at my disposal, I am bound by the law of self-preservation, to cast it manfully against the remains of that class who thus wronged and crushed the people with whom I am identified.
I now come back to my spiritual labors. The following year, 1833, I was re-appointed to the Hamilton circuit, and did much better than I did the first year. I established little societies in all the places which constituted the Hamilton circuit, with the exception of Harveysburg. I had what I considered a successful camp meeting at Harveysburg, but did not build any church there. When I visited this point I usually preached in the United Brethren's church, as my people did not have any place of worship. The Quakers and the whites in general, were much taken up with me. The next Conference year the Rev. James Woodson was appointed to the Hamilton circuit, and I was made his Presiding Elder. He did great good, temporal and spiritual, and this year we formed a society in Oxford, and was succesful in getting a Church.
The next year the Bishop saw fit to send me to
Chillicothe. The people were then worshiping in an old delapidated frame church, but during the year I bought a lot and paid for it. The people were poor and dilatory, hence assisted me but little in my Church labors. However I and some wicked friends with whom I had gotten acquainted, and who thought a great deal of me, went out and got the stone, boated them to Chillicothe and laid the foundation for a new Church; this foundation remained for ten years without a building. The same year I went to Bainbridge and collected enough money to build a church there. Allow me to say that the white friends at this place were exceedingly liberal. Bro. Samuel Watts was appointed to the Chillicothe charge and after he received his appointment I persuaded him to go among the whites and obtain money enough to build a church, and I remember I gave him a gold dollar to start the work, he was quite successful, and built the brick church which the congregation now occupies.
My next appointment was to the Columbus charge, by Bishop Nazrey. It will be remembered by this time we (the African Methodist) had the following Bishops: Bishop Morris Brown, Quinn, Payne and Nazrey. I succeeded the Rev. J. M. Brown. The Church was very much confused
and the officers all scattered, so much so that they would not meet me when I arrived (trouble too bad to mention) I went on doing the best I could and there was always a crowd to hear what I had to say. Mr. Jas. Respus was one of the trustees, but he did not profess faith in the Lord Jesus. He was in good circumstances and a man of influence, he and his wife declared they would stand by me. I stopped with them, and he lifted the collections for me, until I could get some men in the Church out of whom I might get some officers. We had a successful revival and many were converted to God. We soon re-organized the Church and built a parsonage, by the help of the Lord. The parsonage was built on the old Church lot. Mr. & Mrs. Respus were great helpers. He had two teams and agreed to haul the stone to Capitol Square. I drove one of these teams for my board that Conference year. As Conference came on the people spoke very strongly of petitioning for my return, but I heard of it and told them from the pulpit that I would not come back the next year. Bishop Nazrey was on his way to Detroit, Michigan, to hold Conference, and unbeknown to me, the people wrote him to stop in Columbus as they wished to have an interview with him upon the subject of sending me back to Columbus, but I would not consent.
From the Detroit Conference, 1858, I was sent to Allegheny, Penn. There I found an old delapidated church, with a few poor members who were very deficient in business, and here wickedness prevailed to a fearful extent. I did the best I could, and after much hard labor, we had a great revival, collected three hundred dollars from the white and colored people. At the same time laboring under a great many disadvantages. We repaired the church, and matters moved on nicely. From the next Conference the Bishop appointed me to the Zanesville charge, and here I found many fine business and christian men and women. I succeeded the Rev. A. R. Green, who died at Vicksburg, from the yellow fever, a few years ago. He was considered at that time one of our best business men, but was quite self-willed. When I went to Zanesville, the Rev. A. R. Green had an enterprise on foot to obtain a place of worship. He had gotten the people to subscribe for this purpose, and it seems he had purchased two lots with houses on them, and at the same time he and the trustees held a claim on this property. The trustees and the former pastor had the books arranged so we could not understand them, hence this made a division between the people and trustees. I went to work and
turned the trustees out of the board, contrary to the law and discipline of the Church, but it was the best I could do. They declared war against me and followed me to the Conference. I am sorry to say that the Rev. A. R. Green lead the trustees in their persecutions against me. At the Conference they instituted a trial against me, and proved that I was guilty of mal-administration. I acknowledged before the Conference that I had turned out the trustees contrary to the law of the Church. I was not working for David Smith, but for God. I did wrong; therefore, I asked the forgiveness of the Bishop and Conference, and also the trustees. They readily forgave me, and the Conference restored the trustees to their office again.
I then went to Bishop Nazrey and prayed him to send the Rev. James A. Shorter to the Zanesville charge, which he did, for Bishop Nazrey had the utmost confidence in me. I knew full well that the Rev. James A. Shorter could settle any difficulty of the kind according to the law and discipline of the Church. He soon saw the trouble, settled it and purchased the church I was trying to buy from the white people. This ended all the dispute, and the Church sailed on in peace and harmony. Since that time Zanesville has
been among the leading appointments in the Ohio Conference. Among the leading intelligent Christian workers of Zanesville I have only to mention the following: Bro. Messer, who held many important positions in the Church at Zanesville; Bro. N. T. Gant, a wealthy citizen and member of the A. M. E. Church, did much toward building up this important charge. I might mention many other noble-hearted Christian men and women who did much to make the A. M. E. Church what it is in the city of Zanesville.
This charge has been blessed with some of the best and most intelligent pastors of the Ohio Conference, among whom were the Reverends A. R. Green, David Smith, J. A. Shorter (now Bishop), S. H. Thompson, A. A. Whiteman, G. H. Graham and Dr. John G. Mitchell. These men have done much to inspire this congregation to noble deeds. "Like priests; like people."
I wish to pause for a while with my labors in Ohio and speak briefly of some of my general labors, which have important connections with something I shall say in the future.
I went to New Orleans and remained there six months. On my return I stopped in the city of Louisville, Ky. Here I saw a lady that suited my fancy, and I therefore married her, (my third wife). She was Sonney Lewis' widow. The M. E. preacher who had charge of the colored and white Methodists of Louisville knew me in Baltimore, and was acquainted with the nature and object of the African M. E. Church. He persuaded me not to say anything about the A. M. E. Church, as it was very dangerous at that time for any one to advocate the principles of Christian manhood which the A. M. E. Church held and taught her adherents. There was a man by the name of Rev. James Harper who was
pastor at Lexington about the time I stopped in the city. He knew me years before, and was not upon very good terms with me. He incited the people against me and the A. M. E. Church, calling us abolitionists. The white preacher of Louisville persuaded me to take charge of the Centre-street Church, and another little Church which belonged to a man by the name of Washington Spradley. I consented, but did not join them.
That year I became acquainted with a great many of the white preachers and citizens of Louisville, and they had great confidence in me. That year I had wonderful success in Louisville. After my year was out I bought property and moved over to Jeffersonville, Ind., and raised a Society there. I also went back (now and then) to Louisville and preached in my wife's mother's house and raised a society under the auspices of the A. M. E. Church. There was a man by the name of Smith who agreed, if I could preach for the little society in Louisville, he would pay my traveling expenses to and from the city. The little society in Louisville soon bought a lot. I then layed out the Jefferson circuit, comprising New Albany, Charleston and Jeffersonville. We built churches in New Albany and Jeffersonville. I found out where the Rev. William Paul Quinn
was (he was not then Bishop), and wrote to him to come to Jeffersonville. He came, bringing the Rev. George Johnson with him. He was Elder Quinn's secretary. I stated to him what I had done, and he then called a Quarterly Conference in Jeffersonville and appointed the Rev. George Johnson to Louisville, where he put up a little frame building on the lot they bought in the city. This little society multiplied and finally built "Quinn's Chapel." He met with considerable difficulty. We appointed Bro. George Johnson's father to the Jeffersonville circuit, and my house was headquarters.
I had brought Major Wilkerson from New Orleans with me and introduced him to the Ohio Conference which met at Cincinnati. When the Conference met in Cincinnati, William Paul Quinn was Presiding Elder. He gave the Rev. Wilkerson charge of a circuit in Indiana, and made me Presiding Elder over Rev. George Johnson, his Father, and the Rev. Wilkerson.
The following year the General Conference met in Pittsburg, Pa., 1844. At this General Conference the Rev. William Paul Quinn was made Bishop. I prepared to go, but did not, for some reason best known to myself. The following year the newly-made Bishop organized the Indiana
Conference, and appointed Vincennes, on the Wabash river, as the place of meeting. During this year I found the Rev. Willis R. Revels, with whom I became acquainted in Connecticut. He was in a very low condition, but he prepared and went with me to the Conference. He afterward became an eminent preacher in the A. M. E. Church, and died at his home in Indianapolis, an honored member of the Indiana Conference.
I moved from Jeffersonville to Cincinnati. I took what was called a ministerial respite, and retained this relation several years. I will now return to my labors in Ohio. During the years of general labor I became acquainted and was generally known throughout the West. My acquaintance and labors introduced me as an African Methodist, and the people of the then Western States became friends to the A. M E. Church; hence the seed of African Methodism, wafted from the East to the West by a few sacrificing missionaries, grew and spread into the plant of African Methodism, until to-day she claims her thousands of noble-hearted Christians in the Middle and Western States. The noted name of the once Bishop William Paul Quinn has only to be mentioned, and the impulse of gratefulness echoes from the Pacific to the summit of the Allegheny
mountains. I am generally called by the Western brethren Father Smith, of Ohio.
When my respite was out in Cincinnati I was again appointed to the Hamilton circuit. The following brethren had charge of the circuit from the time I laid out the circuit until I returned to it the second time: Reverends Newson, Wells, Jessie, Devine, Rice and Daniel Winslow. These brethren made a considerable improvement in the condition of the circuit during their time. Just before Bro. Winslow left the circuit I held a camp meeting for him at Mason, and it was at this meeting that Bishop William Paul Quinn was stabbed by some ruffian, but we are glad to say it was only a flesh wound. He instituted a law suit, but it did not amount to anything. He then went back to Philadelphia to show the public what he suffered for his people in the West, and the people had great sympathy for him.
The next Conference year after this camp meeting, I followed Brother Winslow on the Hamilton
circuit. I had a pleasant time, but little was done in the way of building churches. Wesley Roberts negotiated (upon his own responsibility) with a man by the name of Rader to build a brick church in the lower part of Xenia. Mr. Rader put up the walls and put the roof on the building and Bro. Roberts became security for the money. This was toward the end of Conference year. The circuit was so large that I could not remain in Xenia long enough to do much in the way of assisting the people to collect money to meet their payment. At the session of the ensuing Conference I advised the Conference to make Xenia a station, and that I would go and be their pastor and trust God for my pay. "It may not be my way or time, but in his way and time the Lord will provide."
The Conference divided the Hamilton circuit and made Xenia a station and returned me as the pastor. I had only eight members, and nowhere to stay but at Brother Wesley Roberts' house. The church had no floor in it, and I went to work, got boards and put a floor in the church. The people did not know anything about festivals. I went to Cincinnati, and got some of the sisters out of our Church to purchase such things as I needed for the occasion, and two of them came
with me and assisted in carrying on the enterprise. We realized a considerable amount of money to pay off our debt, for we had two festivals almost in succession. There were two things which made its successful in this enterprise:
First.--The people had a mind to work for those who were members of the Church; were possessed of zeal and magnanimity of heart and unanimity of purpose which aided them to succeed; hence, they accomplished the work their hands found to do. The work of building the church by the eight members (assisted by the liberal-hearted community) and this remarkable festival or festivals stands among the greatest achievements of the A. M. E. Church in the city of Xenia. Although the A. M. E. Church in Xenia has been afflicted by a "split," yet she has gathered and retained a fair proportion of the intelligent and wealthy citizens of our city, and bids fair to be among the prominent appointments of the Ohio Conference.
Soon after our festivals the news came that a railroad was to be laid between Xenia and Dayton, and that it would take a part off of our church lot. The people became very much dissatisfied and discouraged, but, before the Conference year was up, I had contracted for the church where we
now worship. We contracted for the same with a man by the name of Barr for $1,200, and out of said amount Mr. Rader was to be paid the balance due him for building the little brick church, and at the same time Mr. Barr was to take the NOTE we (the Church) held against the Railroad Company who had bought our little church. By this time my year was out.
The next Conference year the Bishop appointed the Rev. Jeremiah Bowman to the Xenia station. I was one of the trustees of the Church in Xenia. I felt it my duty to guard the interest of the Church I had labored so hard to obtain, therefore I took a respite and came home to see after matters. There was some informality in the notes given Mr. Barr, and the Church had seven hundred dollars more to pay than she had agreed to. The people were very much dissatisfied with Mr. Bowman, for he was very disagreeable. He had everything his own way, and went to work and seated the Church, called the Quarterly Conference. He appointed me Steward, and said the books, papers and money of the Church should be put in my hands. I held my peace, as there was much confusion.
As soon as he got the church seated he sent for Bishop Quinn and had the church consecrated,
and took up a collection of $18 or $20, which was placed in my hands. I carried the money out home (I was then living at Wilberforce). He came the next morning and demanded the papers and money to show them to the Bishop (as he told me). I refused, and he became angry and fell out with me. He came in the afternoon (Monday) and said the Bishop was going away on Tuesday and wanted to see the papers before he departed. I gave him the papers and books, but not the money. I gave the money to one of the Stewards, Bro. Joseph Garrett, who lives in Toledo. Tuesday morning, I came to Xenia, saw Bishop Quinn, and stated to him what Bro. Bowman had said. He knew nothing of it, but said he wanted his expenses paid. The entire year was one of trouble until the ensuing Conference. The next Conference was held in Xenia, 1856, Bishop D. A. Payne, presiding. I brought a charge against Bro. Bowman for the manner with which he had treated the people. Bro. Bowman brought a charge against me for interfering with his charge. The Bishop stated that it was necessary to try the charge against me first. The committee decided that I was not guilty of interfering with Bro. Bowman's charge. Then they proceeded with the charge against Bro. Bowman.
With this we leave the matter, saying none but God knows the trouble the Church and Conference had with Bro. Bowman.
From the Xenia Conference I was appointed to the Troy and Piqua circuit, succeeding the Rev. H. A. Jackson. The cloud of trouble had turned into sunshine, and we had a glorious time that year. After I served the Troy circuit one year, Bishop Payne insisted that I should go to Washington, D. C., as the people wanted me there very much. It had been about forty years since I had established the Church in Washington; hence, they wanted me to return, which I did. This was in 1859 or 1860. I took charge of Israel Church and had the oversight of the Church on the Island. There seemed to be a strange feeling come over the people on my return which I can not describe. There never was a time when there seemed to be more union among the people than at that time, though it was war times.
I became acquainted with Mr. Lovejoy, who was a member of Congress at the time. He, his wife and associates would attend my Church. Mr. Lovejoy often preached for me, and he and his associates and their wives contributed largely to my support. The wives of this class of men (for they were abolitionists of the deepest dye)
have given me many a five-dollar gold piece, and they would tell me all about the efforts they were then putting forth to make the District free. I could not keep it, but would often tell my old brethren and sisters. They often begged me not to say anything about it, for fear the white people would get hold of it and maltreat them. Mr. Lovejoy said to me: "I will let you know when the effort for the liberation of the District is completed, and I want you to have a jollification meeting in your Church."
This, I did. I was the first to publish it through Washington and Georgetown. We had a wonderful jollification meeting at which many of the Senators and their wives were present. I preached from the following words: "Greater is he that is for us than he that is against us." O, such a shout of joy as we had in and out of the church. It can not be described. At night I tried to preach but failed, for such was the joy of the people. During the year I built a church in Good Hope and had a large society. The Government took it for the use of the soldiers, but paid us well for its use. We took the money, paid for the church and everything seemed to go on gloriously and prosperously.
The martial law of Washington became such
that no persons were allowed to leave the city; (I remained in Washington during the war) I went to President Lincoln and told him I wanted to go home to see my wife. He said to me, "Father Smith, I can not give you a permit to go home." On the day I reached Xenia, Ohio, peace was declared, and Oh, what rejoicing there was in the city over the Union victory, tongue can not express it. I remained home until the Ohio Conference met in Delaware. I was then appointed by Bishop Quinn, to Kentucky as a Missionary. The purpose was to get together all the Churches which belonged to my people, or as many as I possibly could. I succeeded in adding the following Churches to the A. M. E. Church: St. Paul's Church, Lexington, Ky., and I appointed the Rev. G. H. Shaffer as pastor, and one at Georgetown which I had charge of; and one at Nicholasville; and another at Harrodsburg. Rev. R. Craig had the pastoral charge of the Harrodsburg. To the Church at Frankfort, I appointed the Rev. W. H. Brown, who was then a student at Wilberforce. To the Church at Cynthiana, Rev. J. Francis. I do not recollect whom I appointed to Danville. The Conference met in Chillicothe in 1866, and I brought my brethren to Conference from Kentucky to be ordained, which was done, and they
were sent to enlarge the ministeral ranks of the A. M. E. Church, and now the little Kentucky field has so enlarged in the last ten years, she has become a seperate Conference in our Connection, known as the "Kentucky Conference of the A. M. E. Church," and now has between fifty and sixty regular appointments, with five or six thousand members. At the last session, September, 1880, this Conference was divided, and now there are two Conferences in the State of Kentucky. Glory to God for the wonderful success that the humble labors of his servant have accomplished in that field and part of his vineyard.
"This work, to thee, God, in faith we lay,
This work, Lord, to thee we raise;
Thine eye be opened night and day,
To guard this work of prayer and praise.
Upon this work heavenly peace,
And holy love, and concord dwell,
Here give the burdened conscience ease.
And the wounded spirit heal.
But will, indeed, Jehovah deign,
Here to abide no transient guest,
Here will our great Redeemer reign,
And here the Holy Spirit rest.
Never let thy glory hence depart;
Yet choose not, Lord, this shrine alone,
Thy Spirit dwell in every heart,
In every bosom fix thy throne."
My next appointment was to Urbana station. I was appointed to the charge by Bishop Payne, 1873, to fill out the incomplete year of the Rev. J.W. Steward. We succeeded in taking in eighty-three new members, and raised seven hundred dollars to pay on Church debts, &c. The Bishop returned me to the Urbana station from Conference. Everything went on nicely for a while, then one of the officers became dissatisfied, saying I was too old, and used his influence in the official board against me, until he got his associates dissatisfied. He and the other official members told me at an official meeting, "that they had nothing against me, only that I was too old to entertain the congregation," (I mean the young folks). I want you to mark, this fact--these young people had come in the Church under my administration. I think the real cause was this: They wanted a young preacher.
I made it a practice to carry the young preachers, &c., when I went to Urbana on Sabbath, and these fathers in the Church, appreciating young men, were moved to this unjust complaint against me. I have always made it a rule of my life, never to stay with a people that did not want me. I therefore told them to write a statement to that effect, and that I would convey it to Bishop
Payne. I did so, and the Bishop moved me immediately. This ended my labors in Urbana.
The next appointment I received was to the Troy and Piqua circuit. I met with little success at this point, yet I succeeded in keeping the Church together, and I also collected some money to assist in enlarging the Church. I gave fifty dollars for that purpose. The Church was remodeled after my Conference year was up.
The next Conference met in Portsmouth. I located at this Conference: From then until the writing of this book I have been going through the Connection, assisting the brethren and anxiously watching the success of the A. M. E. Connection.
Now, at the close of nearly a century of years, I stand, as it were, up in the dome of African Methodism. My ears are saluted with the noise of a mighty Christian army of the sable sons that have arisen out of the waters of Africa--an army comprising fifteen hundred traveling preachers, three hundred and thirty-six thousand members, and one publishing house, situated at 631 Pine street, Philadelphia. At this publication department the great organ of the A.M. E. Church is printed,--"The Christian Recorder"--, which is the exponent and battle-axe of the race, exposing
corruption in Church and State and defending the Christian manhood of the race. We have two foreign missionaries--one stationed in Hayti and the other in Africa.
I wish to speak of the last great department of the A. M. E. Church that has arisen since she started--the Christian lighthouse of the A. M. E. Church--viz: Wilberforce University. Why do I speak so particularly and emphasize so strongly upon this department of the Church? Simply, because the future developments of our beloved Church lay in the education and character of her ministerial rank, for as the preachers are so will the people be. The cause must produce like effect. A wise and holy ministry will create and develop a wise and holy Church. As we look through the window of prophecy we read these sentences: "For the earth shall fill with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea."--Heb. 2-14. To show what progress we are making toward a Holy ministry and Christian education, I refer the readers to the History of Wilberforce as carefully prepared and published by Rt. Rev. D. A. Payne, D. D.
"It was in one of the darkest periods of the Nation's history, when the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, moved by the inspiration of Christian philanthropy, appointed a committee of seven to consider and report a plan for the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the thirty thousand colored people of Ohio, and those of other free States, by furnishing them such facilities of education as had been
generally beyond their reach. This period was that intervening the passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill and the breaking out of the civil war. The demon of slavery had reached the zenith of its power, and was preparing for its deadly struggle with the genius of liberty. 'A Brief History of the Enterprise' was written by one of its chief actors, and is too interesting and important a leaf in the history of our national progress to be abridged. I therefore give it here, verbatim et literatim. It is from the pen of Rev. John F. Wright, D. D.:
" 'The mission of Methodism, like that of the Gospel, is to every human being. All classes have engaged her attention, especially the poor; and the colored people of this and other lands have shared of her sympathy and labors. In 1853 some of the ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church saw and felt the necessity of a more liberal and concentrated effort to improve the condition and furnish the facilitles of education to the thirty thousand colored people in Ohio and those of other free States. At the session of the Cincinnati Conference, held at Hillsboro, September 28th, 1853, on motion of Rev. A. Lowrey, it was ordered 'that a committee of seven be appointed by the President to inquire and report to the next Conference what can best be done to promote the welfare of the colored people among us.' Bishop Janes appointed the following that committee, namely: John F. Wright, Augustus Eddy, A. Lowrey, G. Moody, J. T. Mitchell, William I. Fee, and Charles Elliott.
" 'A majority of the committee met on the call of the chairman, at the Methodist Book Concern, on the 9th of August, 1854, and on a full and free discussion, adopted the following brief outline of a plan which was judged best calculated to answer the end had in view, and which the chairman was requested to elaborate in a report to be presented to the Conference:
" '1. Resolved, That it is of the greatest importance, both to the colored and white races in the free States, that all the colored people should receive at least a good common school education; and that for this purpose well-qualified teachers are indispensable.
" '2. That the religious instruction of the colored people is necessary to their elevation as well as their salvation.
" '3. That we recommend the establishment of a literary institution of a high order for the education of the colored people generally, and for the purpose of preparing teachers of all grades to labor in the work of educating the colored people in our country and elsewhere.
" '4. That we recommend that an attempt be made, on the part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to co-operate with the African Methodist Episcopal Church in promoting the intellectual and religious improvement of the colored people.
" '5. That we recommend the appointment of a general agent to carry out the objects proposed in the foregoing resolutions, and to labor otherwise for the improvement of the people of color.
" '6. That we will furnish all the Conferences in the free States of the West with a copy of our resolutions, and respectfully request them to cooperate with us.
" '7. That the editor of the Western Christian Advocate be requested to publish the foregoing resolutions, and call the attention of the Conferences invited to concur in them, in such remarks as he may deem proper.
" 'JOHN F. WRIGHT, Chairman. " 'A. LOWREY, Secretary. '"
Dr. C. Elliott accompanied the publication of these resolutions with an able editorial.
The chairman of the committee was directed to communicate this plan to the several Conferences in the West for their consideration and concurrence. This was done, and many of those Conferences took favorable action on it, which showed that they were not only ready to adopt the outline of this great movement, but to assist in carrying it out.
"The committee, as instructed, made a report to the Cincinnati Conference, held in the city, September 23, 1854.
"We have but little space, and can make but a short extract from this report. It says: "We give no countenance to any theory which goes to deprive the black man of his full share in our common humanity, but hail him as a man, a brother, in accordance with that grand affirmation of the Bible, which must forever settle the unity of the human race; that God 'hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on the face of the
earth.' Hence, we cordially concede our obligation to do good to the colored race, according to our ability and their necessity. Here, then, is an extensive field open for benevolent enterprise, where a part of the large donations of the rich and the smaller contributions of those of less ability may advantageously mingle together, and where the patriot, the statesman, and the philanthropist of every description may unite in the accomplishment of this noble work."
"Several resolutions were appended to the report. One recommended the establishment of a literary institution of a high order for the education of the colored youth; and one recommended the appointment of a general agent. The entire report was adopted by the Conference, and John F. Wright was appointed the agent.
The general agent, although he had to serve a large district as presiding elder, labored quite extensively, by correspondence and otherwise, in the work assigned him, bearing his own expenses. He succeeded in awakening a lively interest on the subject, and in attracting the attention and exciting the hopes of the colored people.
At the session of the Cincinnati Conference, September 28th, 1855, the committee, consisting of Rev. C. W. Swain, A. Lowrey, and M. Dustin, to whom was referred the elevation of the colored people, reported the following resolutions, which were adopted by the Conference:
"Resolved, That we recommend the appointment of Rev. John F. Wright as general agent
for this Conference, to take the incipient steps for a College for the colored people in this State.
"Resolved, That our delegates be, and are hereby instructed, to bring this subject before the next General Conference for their sanction and assistance.
"Resolved, That it be the duty of our general agent to co-operate with the African Methodist Episcopal Churches in promoting Sabbath schools and other educational interests of the colored people."
The Conference associated with their general agent C. W. Swain, A. Lowery, M. Dustin and M. French, to carry out the first resolution, having reference to the eligible and valuable Xenia Springs property, in Greene county, Ohio.
The general agent and the committee associated with him held their first meeting at the Methodist Book Concern, Cincinnati, on the 31st of October, 1855, all present except Rev. C. W. Swain. John. F. Wright was appointed Chairman, and M. French, Secretary.
At this meeting the agent was authorized to commence negotiating with the owners for the purchase of the Xenia Springs property, that being preferred by the committee as the most eligible location for such an institution. The agent was also authorized to make an offer for the property, and solicit subscriptions and donations for the object.
The offer made by the agent in behalf of the committee was declined, but the negotiations were continued till the amount of difference between
the parties was reduced to five hundred dollars. At this point Mrs. Judge McLean exerted her kind influence in brining about a contract for the purchase.
An offer of $13,500 was made to one of the principal owners, who laid it before his partner in the East, and as no answer was returned to the Western owner for a longer time than was usual, he inferred his friend approved of the sale, and closed the contract, agreeing to the payments proposed, and so informed his Eastern partner.
The former letter had then been received, and he objected to the terms on which Mr. D. had agreed to sell the property. He came out in person, and Messrs. Wright and French, after a long interview, received from him the most favorable terms on which he would sell, as follows: One-fourth of $13,500 to be paid down, or a note given, including ten per cent. interest, at sixty days, with personal endorsers; the balance in one and two years; notes to be given by the commissioners of the Conference for the deferred payments, with approved personal endorsers, and all secured by a mortgage on the property, six per cent. interest to be paid semi-annually--allowing us only ten days to consider and comply with the conditions.
Messrs. Wright and French soon obtained an interview with their associates at the General Conference at Indianapolis, and after a deliberate consultation, they all, except Rev. C. W. Swain, agreed, in order to secure this valuable and in every way suitable property for this benevolent
object, that they would sign notes for the amount, and do what they could to procure endorsers.
In the meantime, this philanthropic work had been presented to the General Conference, and referred to a committee, consisting of Rev. Cyrus Brooks, Z. Connell, Moses Hill, H. E. Pilcher, M. Dustin, F. C. Holliday and R. Boyd. On the 22d of May, 1856, through their chairman, the committee made their report. It commences with a history of the movement, and then describes the Xenia Springs property, including fifty-two acres of ground, with a large edifice, with numerous rooms, which are well adapted for the purpose of a boarding-house, school and class-rooms, chapel, etc.; also several cottages, well adapted to the use of private families. There are several mineral and other springs on the premises, the whole having been fitted up for a fashionable watering place, at a cost of some $50,000. It is situated in Greene county, Ohio, very near a good turnpike road, about midway between Cincinnati and Columbus, and near the railway. It is easy of access, and yet retired, in a rural, beautiful and healthy region, and in nearly as mild a climate as can be obtained north of the Ohio river.
The following resolutions, with the whole report, were adopted by the Conference with great unanimity, and without an expressed objection:
"Resolved, That in the judgment of this General Conference, the religious education of the people of color in our land, will tend most effectually and speedily, under God, to their elevation in this country, and to prepare the way for the
restoration of the benighted millions of downtrodden Africa to the blessings of civilization, science and religion.
"Resolved, That we look upon the proposed plan for the education of the colored youth of our land as of God, and as promising great good to the people of color among us, and untold blessings to the land of their ancestors; and we do most earnestly recommend this noble work to the sympathy, the prayers, and the generous benefactions of all who desire the elevation of the entire family of man.
"Resolved, That we bespeak for the agents of this enterprise a cordial reception on the part of all Christians and philanthropists, hoping that they may be successful, not only in awakening sympathy and enlisting prayers, but also in gathering funds to pay for the property purchased, and to afford a liberal endownment of the Institution, so as to place it on an equal footing with the best institutions of learning in our country."
Messrs. Wright and French with great pleasure, heard of the favorable action of the General Conference, and applied themselves with increased exertions to comply with the conditions made by Mr. B., the hardest of which seemed to be to procure men from pure philanthropy to endorse their notes. Yet they found business men who determined to take the risk for the sake of advancing the intellectual and moral improvement of the most neglected and needy portion of our population. It was known that another party stood ready to close the contract with the owners if
they failed, offering $1500 more. They had till Saturday, the 24th of May, to meet the conditions, and by diligent and continued efforts the last endorser was obtained, half an hour before midnight, at which the time allowed expired. As they are deemed worthy of imperishable honor, we render the small tribute of here recording their names, with a clear conviction that their record is on high, and a strong hope that they will have a brighter and more enduring reward in the decisions of the great day.
The names are: Wm. Wood, Alexander Webb, John Dubois, Morris S. Hopper. The general agent advanced $376, and for the balance of the cash payment, $3000, a note was given at sixty days, endorsed by William Wood, John Elstner, and W. B. Smith & Co.--names never to be forgotten.
This enterprise was commenced by faith in that God who hath respect unto the lowly, and who can control the hearts of all men, and its friends have cause to thank God and take courage.
Immediately after the purchase, the general agent entered upon his work of soliciting funds to meet the note of $3000 due in sixty days. He collected some in the West, and going to the East he had some success in New York, Boston, Providence, Woonsocket, New Bedford, and other places in New England and New York; and it ought to be said, to the honor of Dr. W. G. Palmer, that a few days before the note matured he loaned the agent, on his individual note, $1000, by which, with other funds, the note was paid.
On the 30th day of August, 1856, application was made in due form, to the authorities of Greene county, and State of Ohio, for the benefit of the general law of the State, passed April 9th, 1852; and every requisition of the law being complied with, the institution was organized and constituted a body corporate, under the name of "The Wilberforce University." The corporators adopted articles of association and elected a Board of twenty-three Trustees. Some changes have taken place in the Board since its first organization; the present catalogue, however, will show the names of the members of the Board is it now exists. At the first meeting John F. Wright, was elected President of the Board, and M. French, Secretary; and Rev. Professor F. Merrick was elected President of the University. There was, however, no demand at that time for his services at the institution, and the school was supplied with teachers for the time being, as they were needed.
Professor James K. Parker served as Principal from February, 1857, to July, 1858, and then retired with commendation of the Board. Prof. Merrick having declined serving, on the 30th of June, 1858, Rev. Richard S. Rust, a distinguished member of the New Hampshire Conference, was unanimously elected President of the Institution. When officially notified of his election, after finding he could be released from an important pastoral charge, he signified his willingness to accept the appointment, and at the commencement of the fall term he entered upon his work.
He has shown himself well qualified, and has been eminently successful in his position. The number of students has varied from seventy to one hundred. Many of them are very promising, and some have made remarkable proficiency in their studies. Every year the school has been visited with a gracious revival of religion, and many of the pupils have been made the happy subjects of a work of grace which is deemed all important to their usefulness in life. This benevolent scheme is based on the supposition that the colored man must, for the most part, be the educator and elevator of his own race in this and other lands. Hence, a leading object of the institution is to educate and thoroughly train many of them for professional teachers, or for any other position or pursuit in life to which God, in His providence, or by his Spirit, may call them. It has also been a cherished idea with the founders of the Institution that a Theological Department should be organized at the earliest period possible, in which young men called of God to preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ" might receive that aid so essential to prepare them for this great work. We are happy to learn that several young men have already entered this department, who give promise of great usefulness to the Church and the world. Our enterprise has enlisted the hearts and received the favor of some distinguished statesmen and other citizens of our common country, and is designed to unite and engage the efforts of all Christians and philanthropists. Several of the leading denominations of Christians
are represented in the Board of Trustees. We have good reasons to believe this work is of God, that His hand is in it, and His blessing will be upon it, and, therefore, we hope for good results.
The catalogue of 1859--60, shows a roll of 207 students, the majority of whom were the natural children of Southern and Southwestern planters. These came from the plantation with nothing mentally but the ignorance, superstition, and vices which slavery engenders; but departed with so much intellectual and moral culture as to be qualified to be teachers in several of the Western States, and, immediately after the over-throw of slavery, entered their native regions as teachers of the freedmen.
A large number were gathered from the free States, and others from some of the most respectable families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and California. These derived the greater benefit from the instruction given at Wilberfore, and were prepared for a higher sphere of usefulness. Dr. Rust had also formed a class in the Classics and Mathematics; another in French; and a third had commenced theological studies, of whom were six young men, who have since distinguished themselves in the pastoral and other fields of usefulness, covering politics, the military service of the United States, and the publishing department of the African M. E. Church. One of these ran a short but glorious career as a pastor, and is gone to enjoy the "Saints' everlasting rest."
On the 10th of March, 1863, between 9 and 10 o'clock, P. M.,
one of the Bishops of the A. M. E. Church agreed with
the original Trustees* *The original Trustees consisted of twenty-four persons, four
of whom were colored.
of Wilberforce University to purchase the property for the A. M. E. Church, to be used as an institution of education for the colored race; which was, at the time, excluded from all the schools of higher education, excepting two or three, of which Oberlin was chief. Their admission into others, if admitted at all, was on such conditions as few persons of color would accept. This Bishop associated with himself, Rev. James A. Shorter and Mr. John G. Mitchell, who was at that time Principal of a graded school in the city of Cincinnati. These three persons applied for and obtained a new charter for Wilberforce, in the name of the A. M. E. Church, according to the general law of Ohio.
*The original Trustees consisted of twenty-four persons, four of whom were colored.
Under this charter they organized a new Board of Trustees, and the school was re-opened on the 3d day of July, 1863, by Prof. John G. Mitchell. Only six children were present. They were put upon the study of elementary English.
During the first ten months the school gradually increased in members and progressed in knowledge.
Professor Mitchell was aided by his wife, Mrs. Fannie A. Mitchell.
At the opening of the spring of 1864, the increasing numbers demanded another teacher, and Miss Esther T. Maltby, of Oberlin, then a teacher in the schools of the American Missionary Society, at Portsmouth, Va., was secured as Lady Principal and Matron.
She reached Wilberforce with a Greek testament in her hand. It was her traveling companion all along the journey from Portsmouth to Xenia.
This circumstance I am particular to mention, because the fact furnished us with a key to her character, as it seemed to have colored her life since. She was an excellent Greek and Latin scholar, a good mathematician, and has no superior, that I ever saw, as a disciplinarian. Zealous for the moral purity of the children and youths committed to her care, she labored day and night to induce them to be Christians as well as scholars.
The ordinary religious services of the Institution were not sufficient for her; she, therefore, held an extra prayer meeting every morning, from 8 to 8 1/2 o'clock, in which she read the Holy Scriptures, exhorted, sang, and prayed with those who were willing to attend her meetings, and succeeded in leading many from their vices, to live an upright life; among whom was a very playful and mischievous lad, by the name of Thomas H. Jackson, who united with the College Church, graduated from the Theological Department of the University, filled the chair of Ecclesiastical History, Pastoral Theology, and Homiletics for two years
at Wilberforce; severed in the pastorate of a large Church at Columbia, South Carolina, for three years, and at the last annual meeting of the Trustees was re-elected to fill the same chair.
Professor Mitchell had been constrained, by the wants of the school, to go out as a financial agent. The management of the school was left solely to Miss Maltby, and, under God, it was increasing in numbers and popularity.
The progress of the students was commendable, and classes were formed in Greek, Latin, and the lower Mathematics. Everything indicated a prosperous future, when suddenly the buildings were set on fire by incendiaries. Within half an hour the beautiful edifice was nothing but smouldering embers. The catastrophe fell upon us like a clap of thunder in a clear sky.
It was a time of lamentation for our friends, and rejoicing for out enemies. Said one of the latter, "Now their buildings are burned, there is no hope for them." Another said, "I wish lightning from heaven would burn down Wilberforce." This one supposed his impious prayer was more than answered.
But we believed and said, "Out of the ashes of the beautiful frame building a nobler one shall rise." Mr. Mitchell had gone to Xenia, with almost all the students, to witness the celebration of the fall of Richmond.
Two obstreperous female students were detained on the grounds by way of punishment for acts of
disobedience. I was attending Conference at Baltimore, and Miss Maltby was left alone. No, she was not alone. As God was with Daniel in the lion's den, and with his three brethren in the fiery furnace, so was He with her in the trouble at Wilberforce. Without faltering, one of the cottages was converted into a school-room, and the scholars taught therein, till the last of June, which terminated the academic year; after which, all the students from abroad went home.
The majority of the advanced students never returned, but went to other institutions. Those who preferred Wilberforce came back the next autumn. Meanwhile, we began to mature our plans for rebuilding. The result is before the country. The edifice will be finished and dedicated next summer, and will be a larger, finer, and nobler edifice than the former. As respects the school, it passed through severe trials.
Miss Maltby's nervous system was so affected by the catastrophe, that for twelve month's she was unfit for labor, and never returned. She is now a missionary in Asia Minor, in the service of the A. B. C. F. M. Professor Mitchell was compelled to be in the field, soliciting funds to aid us in rebuilding, and, therefore, for a season, the management of the school fell upon our most advanced student, Mr. J. P. Shorter, who acted his part nobly, until we were able to secure the services of competent Professors, who were soon found in the persons of Professor Theodore E. Suliot, Professor William Kent, and Miss Sarah J. Woodson.
The Theological and Classical were opened in the autumn of 1866; the Scientific in 1857; the Normal in 1872.
Graduates have gone forth from all these Departments, except the Law, and only three from that have been put upon the study of Law.
Mental Science; George W. Mendall, A.M., (Wesleyan University,) Professor of Languages and Natural Sciences; Mary J. Allen, (Wesleyan Academy,) Preceptress, Teacher of French and Mathematics; Sarah J. Woodson (Oberlin,) Teacher of English Department; Adelaide Warren (Oberlin,) Teacher of Instrumental and Vocal Music.
Professor Wendell was succeeded by Professor Pliny S. Boyd, A. B., Oberlin. Miss Warren was succeeded by Miss Biffington, New York; and Miss Allen was succeeded by Miss Isabella Oakley.
Right Rev. D. A. Payne. D. D., President (Gettysburg Theological Seminary,) Professor of Christian Theology, Mental Science, and Church Government.
John G. Mitchell, A.M., (Oberlin,) Professor of Greek, Latin and Mathematics.
Miss Esther T. Maltby, A. B., (Oberlin,) Lady Principal, Matron and Secretary of Faculty.
Mrs. Fannie A. Mitchell (Oberlin,) Assistant Teacher and Head of Intermediate Department.
Right Rev. D. A. Payne, D. D., President (Gettysburg Theological Seminary.)
Professor John G. Mitchell, A.M., (Oberlin.)
Rev. William Kent M. D., (England,) Professor of Natural Science.
Theodore E. Suloit, A.M., (Edinburgh, Scotland,) Professor of Latin and French Literature, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics.
Miss Sarah J. Woodson, Oberlin, Preceptress of English and Latin, and Lady Principal and Matron.
Miss Woodson was succeeded by Miss Josephine Jackson, B. S., Adrian, Michigan.
This year finds Bishop Payne still acting as President, but not a Professor, the Theological Department being managed wholly by Rev. Henry C. Fry, A.M., Oberlin.
Professor John Smith, Oberlin, succeeded Prof. Mitchell, and Mrs. Messenger succeeded Miss Josephine Jackson.
Rev. Thomas H. Jackson, B. D., Wilberforce University, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology.
William B. Adams, Amherst, A.M., Professor of Greek and Natural Science.
Right Rev. R. G. Mortimer, Professor of Latin, Greek, Exegesis, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics.
Dr. Wilson, Teacher of Hebrew Language and Hebrew Exegesis.
Roswell Howard, A.M. B. L., Professor of Law.
Honorable John Little, Professor of Law.
Mrs. Alice M. Adams, Holyoke, Lady Principal, Matron and Teacher of English; who was succeeded by Miss Emma L. Parker; who was
succeeded by Miss Leonore Congdon. Miss Parker was of the Wesleyan Female Seminary, Oxford, Ohio; Miss Congdon, of Oberlin.
Bishop Payne is still the President. Professor Jackson was succeeded by Rev. B. F. Lee, Wilberforce University.
Benjamin H. Sampson, A.M., Oberlin, succeeded Professor Mortimer as Professor of Latin, Greek and Mathematics, and Secretary of the Faculty.
Rev. Benjamin F. Lee is in turn succeeded by Professor Thomas H. Jackson, and Professor Sampson's chair is now filled by Professor Joseph P. Shorter, the first graduate from our Classical Department; at the same time Miss McBride is succeeded by Miss Ella J[.] Greene, in all things excepting the languages.
In the Classical and Mathematical Department, are the same as generally obtained in American colleges.
In the Normal, we have the methods of Oswego. In the practicing schools of the Normal Department there is nothing peculiar but our manner of teaching Orthography and Orthoepy; here we employ analysis, that is to say, immediately after a pupil has spelled a word, he is required to tell how many letters, how many vowels, and how many consonants it contains, then to give the quality and quantity of every vowel, and to
distinguish the characteristic of the sub-vocals and the aspirates.
We deem this the best method of teaching the art of spelling, because it is the most thorough; and also because, when the principle is continually applied and the habit is formed, in subsequent life the individual will be satisfied with nothing short of a thorough knowledge of any object which he may take to scrutinize; or any subject he may begin to investigate.
In our Theological Department, we employ both the inductive and deductive methods, allowing the largest liberty of investigation and of expression; excepting that which borders upon impiety and blasphemy.
Our aim is to make Christian scholars, not mere bookworms, but workers, educated workers with God for man--to effect which we employ not the Ciassics and Mathematics only, but Science and Philosophy also, the former for their discriminating, polishing and cultivating influences, the latter for the quickness and exactness which they impart to the cognitive faculty, and the seed thoughts which they never fail to sow in the mind. And yet we hold that the Classics and Mathematics, as Science and Philosophy, can and must be consecrated to human well-being by the teachings, the sentiments, and the spirit of Jesus.
We are in the midst of a farming region, immediately encircled by ten families, who are also educating their children in our school; two of
them were formerly students, who, since they left us, have been married, and are now in their turn educating their children in their own Alma Mater. The influence of the College upon these children is manifest; not only in their manners, but also in their talents, for, of 126 to 153 students who have annually filled our halls during the last four years, none surpass them in mental powers; very few equal them in capacity or ability.
The real estate of Wilberforce contains 53 acres of land, finely timbered, and abundantly watered with mineral springs. The campus embraces about ten acres--5 in front and 5 in the rear. It is traversed by a ravine, which at certain points becomes so deep as to eclipse the apex of the cupola, 92 feet high. Its meanderings are east, southeast by north, flanking and moulding the rear of the campus into graceful curves and slopes, producing the form of a miniature table-land, sharply defined and beautiful. The front is level, with a slight indenture running southward. It is shaded by forest trees and a few evergreens.
consists of fifty-two acres of undulating land, which was heavily timbered when we bought it, in 1863. It is traversed by a deep ravine, through which a murmuring streamlet meanders winter and summer. At the time of its purchase, there were five mineral springs running out of the sides of this ravine, which are at present reduced to
three, caused by the diminution of the timber, which has been cut down for fuel and other purposes. On these fifty-two acres we have ten buildings, exclusive of a barn and stable. Nine of these buildings are cottages, erected within the campus. They are inhabited chiefly by students and families who came to educate their children under college restrictions and influences.
The main edifice is built in the centre of the campus. The foundations are of solid lime stone. The superstructure is of red brick, three stories above the basement, and is 44 by 160 feet. It embraces a centre and two wings--the centre is 40 by 52, the wings are 40 by 60. This building contains eight recitation and one lecture rooms, one art and one music room, one library, and a large hall, to be fitted up for a museum. It has also five dormitories, with forty bed-rooms, and sleeping accommodations for eighty persons. The basement contains fifteen rooms, which embrace the kitchen, pantry, store-rooms, dining-hall, laundry and sleeping apartments for all connected with the culinary and laundry work. When the dormitories and cottages are filled, students often find comfortable accommodations in this commodious basement.
The library contains about 3000 bound volumes and 300 pamphlets. The most of them are useful. Among these are few books of reference. We have none that can be considered as rare. Our
museum is so small that we call it nothing more than the nucleus of a future one.
Before concluding this historical sketch, it seems proper to make a grateful record of those who generously aided us when we most needed their assistance to make our very existence an unquestionable fact, for at that time some of our own short sighted people, for whose special benefit we have always planned and executed, had formally denied it.
In March, 1863, our friends of the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church sold us the property for its indebtedness, which was $10,000, and that, too, at the time when the agent of the State of Ohio stood anxious to buy it at a much larger price for an asylum, and from others they could have obtained from one to two-thirds more than we were able to give. Their liberality placed a valuable seat of learning, with at least $1000 worth of furniture, within our reach, and therefore we ought to be grateful.
In 1867-68, the Society for the Promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education at the West aided us in the sum of $1800. Let it be remembered that we were burnt out in the spring of 1865. In 1867 we had erected the western wing of our edifice; but its walls were not only unpictured and its floors uncarpeted, they were unplastered and rough; all around us presented an uninviting aspect.
At my earnest invitation, the good Secretary,
Dr. Theron Baldwin came--he saw the "appalling obstacles" which we had to face and overcome. His soul was stirred to its depths, and his eloquent plea in our behalf induced the Society to vote us $1800 for the 1867. In 1868-69 they again voted us $1800. Although the funds of the society did not enable them to make good the whole of this last vote, what we did receive was of signal benefit, and we are therefore thankful.
The American Unitarian Association aided us from 1868 to 1875, at an average of $500 per annum. The first twelve months of that time they gave us $800, in all about $4000. We have received from them, for purely educational purposes, in the form of lectures on different branches of natural science, including experimental physics, also lectures on literature and philosophy. The lectures on literature were both Biblical and secular. They were delivered by the scholarly Professors of Antioch, and have been very serviceable to our graduates, not only in stimulating them to deep research, but also in polishing their style, for which we ought to be grateful.
To construct our new edifice, Rev. R. S. Rust, D. D., and Rev. J. F. Wright, D. D., each gave us $100. For our endowment fund, John Pfaff, Esq., of Cincinnati, and P. P. Mast, Esq., of Springfield, Ohio, esch has subscribed $500. The latter is to pay his subscription some time in the coming summer.
In 1868 that noble philanthropist, Hon. Gerritt Smith, sent us $500; the same year the equally noble Chief Justice Chase induced an English
gentlemen to send us $300; subsequently the Chief Justice gave us $250, and in his last will bequeathed us $10,000. In this last instance he magnified his greatness in making us, who are the poorest of God's poor in the United States, the first object of his considerate benevolence.
Now, and here, we record the facts that, in 1869, we received, through General Howard, from the Freedmen's Bureau, $3000, and in 1870 we received from the same Bureau, by special act of Congress, $25,000, for all of which we ought to be grateful. Total from the Bureau, $28,000. All this has been spent in building, except $3125, which was paid to the agent as per centage. Concerning our benefactors, whose earthly career has been finished, we hope they may "be rewarded at the resurrection of the just." Concerning those who are still living, we pray that they and theirs may never lack a friend nor aid in the time of need or the day of adversity.
The "Society of Inquiry on Missions" was organized by the President, for the purpose of collecting information concerning Christian Missions from all sources, foreign and domestic, and to cultivate the spirit of missions in the Theological students for whose special benefit the organization was brought into existence. Since then other persons have been admitted to membership, but the extension of this privilege to persons not members of the Theological Department, has, in
some respects, damaged the original character of the Society.
The Soldalean Society was organized by the students, the present Professor Shorter, then a student, being their leader. It is a debating club. Its design is mutual improvement in composition, disputation and oratory.
Outside of the Institution, but connected with it by bonds of earnest friendship, is the "College Aid Society," consisting chiefly of married ladies, and some of the oldest female students. Its aim is declared in its name. This Society carne into existence through the wants of the College, and has rendered signal services to the University in times of embarrassment.
"Wilberforce University Endowment Association," outside of the Institution, consists chiefly of ministers and laymen of the Ohio, Pittsburg and Kentucky Conferences, who are earnest workers in its behalf, and connected with it by a friendship as sincere is it is earnest. Its object is the permanent endowment of Professorships and Scholarships.
Students can board in families for $2.00 and $2.50 per week.
A Boarding Club, consisting of the students, including both sexes, is called "The Mutual Relief Association." Board is furnished by this club for $1.50 per week. The initiation fee is $3.50, including the first week's board, so that the first month's board will cost a new member $7.50;
after that, only $6.00 per month. It was first managed by a Steward, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, elected among themselves; but at the end of every year they were involved in debts. At the end of three years, it was found that their management was ruinous; since then it has been gratuitously managed by one of our Professors, who has not only kept the Club out of debt, but has had a surplus for it at the end of the college year. They hire a cook, but take turn to wait upon themselves at table, and thereby reduce their expenses to the minimum. The young men do the heavier part of the work, the young women the lighter.
As respects endowment of Professorship, we have none. As respects scholarships, we have an endowment of $2300, which yields assistance to two students, giving each the sum of $70.50 annually. Ten thousand dollars of the Avery estate have been set apart for our benefit, and the interest, at six per cent. paid over to us semi-annually. Our Church Treasury yields us an average of $1000 annually; tuition fees and rents, amounting to about $5000 annually; bonds in the Western Union Telegraph Company, and the railroad between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, bequeathed by the late Chief Justice Chase, amounting to $10,000; but this is at present not available. Morally and intellectually, I believe we compare favorably with similar institutions. We have have a church within the University, by means of which the moral
and religious character of the students is beneficially affected, so that many who come to us careless of their spiritual well being, leave us as earnest Christians. In this church we have also a well-managed Sunday-school, taught by the Professors and advanced students.
Fully, to appreciate the results of our efforts, it is necessary to remember, first, that the 10th of March, 1876, will be just thirteen years since we purchased the real estate of Wilberforce University, at a cost of $10,000; and the end of July, 1876, will be thirteen years from the day when the school was opened. Secondly, that we had not a dollar when we made the bid for the property. Thirdly, that we opened the school with but six
pupils in Primary English studies, having but one teacher, and that we were burnt out about two years after we made the purchase of the property. Our dormitories, recitation-rooms, library and chapel were all consumed, and our school almost broken up. We had to begin anew. Now we have so far completed our new building that we shall be able to dedicate it this summer. The burnt edifice was made of wood, erected on a slight brick foundation; it was beautiful, but a light and airy thing. Our present edifice is heavy brick, on massive stone foundation. The cost, when completed and furnished, will be about $45,000. Within thirteen years from the day we opened our Primary English school, we shall have graduated thirteen young ladies and sixteen young men. Total, 29.
All our graduates have engaged in the honorable and useful employment of the pulpit and the school room. Three have been elected to fill Professorships in their own Alma Mater, and one is Principal of Lincoln Institute, a High and Normal School of the State of Missouri, for the secondary education of colored youth. In addition to these, scores of undergraduates have received a partial training within the past twelve years, who are now employed or have been employed as teachers and preachers in the Western and Southern States, but chiefly in the latter.
Inasmuch as Wilberforce is under denominational
auspices, it was deemed prudent at the time of its organization to have each Annual Conference represented by two laymen and three clergymen; and, therefore, inasmuch as there are twenty-three Annual Conferences, there are also one hundred and fifteen denominational Trustees, and to these add nine honorary Trustees, and the six Bishops, who are ex officio Trustees, and we have the enormous Board of one hundred and thirty; but practically, we have not more than twenty four, the largest number ever present at an annual meeting. The lesson taught us at the end of twelve years, is, that there is no need of having more than one clergyman and one layman to represent an Annual Conference, who may have alternates; these, with ten or twelve honorary members and the ex officios, from whom a quorum can be convened within three hours' ride of the University, would be sufficient for all practical purposes. Our own experience and observation for twenty years furnish strong objections, also, to the annual election of the Faculty. The power and skill requisite to the successful working of a collegiate institution are attained only by the long experience and observations of many years, and is too important and valuable to be set aside for the gratification of the ambitious and arrogant, or the envious and malicious, as has sometimes been done. Common sense dictates the abolition of such a rule and the adoption of a better.
We will now finish this historical sketch by remarking:--
The Charter of Wilberforce prohibits all
distinctions based on race or color. Like Christianity, of which it is an off-spring, its advantages and facilities are free to all races. Though very poor, young and weak, all the leading denominations have been represented among its teachers and its Faculty as well as its Trustees. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians and Quakers--even Roman Catholics--have met here on common grounds.
To any thinking mind, may be clearly seen that if without endowment and with very poor facilities, so much good has been accomplished as these pages make evident, a thousand fold more could be effected if amply endowed and ably officered. To this end, its real, intelligent and considerate friends should wisely plan and diligently execute.
DANIEL A. PAYNE,
Prest. Wilberforce University.
In the early part of my life (I do not know the date or how old I was when I married my first wife) I felt that I needed a companion to assist me in the arduous duties of life. I therefore courted the affections of Miss Nancy Prout, the daughter of William Prout, of Baltimore, Md., and the happy union of husband and wife was soon consummated. We raised a very large family; unfortunately for us, however, death visited us quite often. Very soon we were deprived of nearly all of the children with which we had been blessed. Out of the twelve children only four lived to man and womanhood. My eldest daughter, Miss Elizabeth Smith, married a man of Philadelphia, by the name of James Gayles. She became very useful in the Church and a great organizer of benevolent societies. Finally my wife died a successful Christian death, and I was again left alone to bear the burdens of life. I was traveling the Harrisburg circuit when my companion died.
I remained single two years. I next married a lady of Pittsburg, Pa., by the name of Miss Hannah Johnson, the only daughter of Mr. Adam Johnson. We raised considerable family, but
disease and death deprived me of all my children and wife, with the exception of one daughter, whose name is Eliza. She married William Cary, of Virginia. Mr. and Mrs. Cary have resided in Xenia, Ohio, for years. Mrs. Eliza Cary is well known in Xenia, and also in the city of Cincinnati, as a useful Christian woman.
I married my third wife in Louisville, Ky. She was the widow of Mr. Sonny Lewis. We then moved to Ohio, bought a home and settled three miles north of Xenia, near Wilberforce University, and here I remained until the death of my wife (Polly Smith). She suffered for seven long years, almost an invalid, and finally died a Christian death. Again I was left alone, a man carrying nearly a century of years. I then moved to Xenia, and at the writing of this book I am living with my daughter, Eliza Cary, and with this only daughter I expect to spend my last days on earth.
Some of the reasons which lead me to join the A. M. E. Church:
First. I was convinced by Daniel Coker, and others, that when the A. M. E. Church was established she could do more good among my people than the M. E. Church, and why? Simply on
account of the peculiar adaptation of any race of people to reach and effect its own people to a greater degree than a stranger can possibly do.
Second. The longer I was connected with her the more plainly I saw the sweeping field she afforded for the development of Christian manhood.
Third, There is no bar on account of color; but Virtue, Qualification and Usefulness were the three steps to the highest position in the Church. Hence I have devoted nearly sixty years to the service of my Church.
I am hers for success and development.