Thursday, June 22, 2006

Diary of (Caucasian) Rev. Samuel Houston wherein he mentions Black members of his church

Look for the diaries of local Caucasian residents. For instance, I found excerpts from the diary of Rev. Samuel Houston that gave me an idea of what life in 1861 may have been like for my family.
My greatgrandmother and greatgrandfather were married by the Rev. Samuel Houston (Presbyterian) in Monroe County in 1880. Rev. Houston's picture appears in the book HISTORY OF MONROE COUNTY by Oren F. Morton (1916). One chapter of the History of MC contains some 1860 - 1864 excerpts from Rev. Houston's diary - "A War Diary". In his diary he gives some information about what life was like in Union, MC in general and also what was going on with the enslaved residents. He speaks of "an intended insurrection on the part of the Negroes" & the fact that "free Negroes" were "enlisting in the Southern army".
My favorite entry, however, was posted on May 22, 1861. He writes "Have heard that the Negroes express a strong dislike for the sermon I lately preached, proving that the war on our side, being defensive, is a just one". I imagine that my greatgreatgrandparents & other relatives were a part of his congregation and I'm glad the Black members of the congregation let their feelings be known.
On June 29, 1861 he reports that "Negro leader at Lewisburg hung yesterday". (I have not yet looked for this newspaper article - probably held by the GHS or the WV Div of Culture) On June 30, 1862 he reports that "the enemy" offered "Negroes" from $10-$20 per month to leave the area and that "many Negroes refused to go". Since my relatives appear to have been in the area at that time and were still there in the early 1920's they were apparently among the folks who refused to leave.
In other chapters of this book Mr. Morten opines that the first Black and the first Caucasian in the area arrived about the same time (pages 185, 186); that in 1795 a white woman was ordered before the court for having a mulatto child (p. 75); that the Negro population was never very large in MC (p. 185); that master and hand worked side by side and equally (page 185); that Blacks, whether field or house hand, looked down on poor whites (page 186); that field hands lived in huts & suffered during the winter (page 186); & that in MC freeing of enslaved individuals by will was rather common (page 186).
Another chapter of the book is entitled "The Colored Element". In this chapter he lists a number of citizens by name, for instance "William Haynes chastised a man and his wife for some petty stealing. Because of their racial belief that after death one passes to some other land and lives more happily, they thought to go to Africa by suicide. Accordingly, they committed suicide in a cave and they were buried there". This incident is recounted in a slightly different way in the Second Creek Survey recently finished (?2005) which aims to promote the Second Creek area as an historic district. The unfortunate couple would have been related to me by blood or ownership as my family are Haynes from this very same area of Monroe County.

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