Monday, January 11, 2016

Organized Religion in Black Community in 1860's

The Black Community of Lawrence County had an organized church life during the Civil War and were not isolated from the news of national events, helping explain the enlistments of over 30 local soldiers in the US Colored Infantry, after federal law allowed such enlistments in 1863.

 "The Christian Recorder" was published in Philadelphia by the AME Church of the United States.  One subscriber of "The Christian Recorder" was James H. Pettiford of Russell Township.  James Pettiford was born about 1820 in North Carolina.  He was a brother of Reuben Pettiford and Wiley F. Pettiford, who served in Co B, 28th U.S. Colored Infantry.  He was the guardian of Viola Ann Day after her father Pvt William S. Day was killed by the Rebels in a 1863 skirmish at the Chicahomony Swamp in Virginia and after her mother died in 1866.

Enlistments in the 28th US.CI were encouraged by AME ministers in Indiana.  AME minister Garland White served as a Private in the same company as many of the men from Lawrence Co and later became the first colored officer of the Civil War, as Chaplain of the 28th USCI

Several articles were found in The Christian Recorder during the Civil War era about the AME church serving the Vincennes Circuit, which would have included the folks in Lawrence County.  On Dec 28, 1861 William Jackson wrote from Vincennes:

BROTHER WEAVER: - This comes to inform you of the wonderful work of God in this part of his vineyard. Providence has cast my lot on the Vincennes Circuit, Ind. When I arrived on this circuit, I found it in a low condition, and the people much discouraged. This has been the state of this circuit for the last six years, but I am happy to inform you that the good Lord has blessed us together. By owning and blessing my labors, we have had forty-three to join the church; thirty of whom have been connected; 8 backsliders reclaimed, and many seeking for a clean heart. The altar is crowded with souls crying with pardoning mercy. Pray for us, that the work may still go on until all the world is lit up with the glory of God.

Then again on July 5, 1862 Brother Jackson wrote from Vincennes:

MR. EDITOR: - As your valuable and interesting paper is so extensively read on this circuit, that it amounts to nineteen subscribers, besides the Sabbath School being supplied with it, I shall be glad to have you insert my appointments in its columns as follows:
Two days' meeting at Vincennes - first Saturday and Sabbath in July, at Washington; the second Saturday and Sabbath ditto.; three days' meeting at Maria Creek - the third Friday, Saturday, and Sabbath; Ellison Prairie, the fourth Saturday and Sabbath ditto.; Vincennes , first Saturday and Sabbath in August. The quarterly meeting will be held at Vincennes on the second Friday, Saturday and Sabbath in August, at which time the funeral sermon of Sister Laura Jane Stewart will be attended to.

Then on September 30, 1865 Patrick Thomas wrote:
For the Christian Recorder.

 MR. EDITOR: - Please allow me a small space in your valuable paper, for the first time, to record a few events.

On the 30th of June, I organized a Sabbath School five miles west of Vincennes, Lawrence Co ., Ills . On the first Sabbath we met, the attendance was small, numbering only seventeen; but as time passed on, it rapidly increased. The present number of scholars in attendance is now forty. They have a superintendent and five teachers over them.

We had a celebration on the 6th inst., it being the first ever held here. The people met at 10 1/2 o'clock, A.M. Mr. R. Knight, from Indiana, addressed the audience on National Rights, one of the most eloquent speeches that has ever been delivered by colored men in this place.

After dinner, Mr. J.W. Waller, of Indiana, made an address. The evening was spent quietly and pleasantly. All seemed to enjoy themselves exceedingly. Addresses were delivered by Sabbath School Scholars, male and female.

We hope that our brethren will pray for us, that our little school may be like the tree planted by the side of a river.

Yours respectfully,     PATRICK THOMAS.

Ed Note:  To see more about Black History in Lawrence County go to!blackhistory/c169p