Slave Narrative of Reverend Williams

Interviewer: Miriam Logan
Person Interviewed: Rev. Williams
Location: Lebanon, Ohio
Place of Birth: Greenbriar County, West Virginia
Date of Birth: 1859
Age: 76
Occupation: Methodist minister

Miriam Logan Lebanon, Ohio July 8th

Warren County, District 2

Story of REVEREND WILLIAMS, Aged 76, Colored Methodist Minister, Born Greenbriar County, West Virginia (Born 1859)

“I was born on the estate of Miss Frances Cree, my mother’s mistress. She had set my grandmother Delilah free with her sixteen children, so my mother was free when I was born, but my father was not.

“My father was butler to General Davis, nephew of Jefferson Davis. General Davis was wounded in the Civil War and came home to die. My father, Allen Williams was not free until the Emancipation.”

“Grandmother Delilah belonged to Dr. Cree. Upon his death and the division of his estate, his maiden daughter came into possession of my grandmother, you understand. Miss Frances nor her brother Mr. Cam. ever married. Miss Frances was very religious, a Methodist, and she believed Grandmother Delilah should be free, and that we colored children should have schooling.”

“Yes ma’m, we colored people had a church down there in West Virginia, and grandmother Delilah had a family Bible of her own. She had fourteen boys and two girls. My mother had sixteen children, two boys, fourteen girls. Of them-mother’s children, you understand, there were seven teachers and two ministers; all were educated-thanks to Miss Frances and to Miss Sands of Gallipolice. Mother lived to be ninety-seven years old. No, she was not a cook.”

“In the south, you understand-there is the COLORED M.E. CHURCH, and the AFRICAN M.E. CHURCH, and the SOUTHERN METHODIST, and METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCHES of the white people. They say there will be UNION METHODIST of both white and colored people, but I don’t believe there will be, for there is a great difference in beliefs, even today. SOUTHERN METHODIST do believe, do believe in slavery; while the Methodist to which Miss Frances Cree belonged did not believe in slavery. The Davis family, (one of the finest) did believe in slavery and they were good southern Methodist. Mr. Cam., Miss Frances brother was not so opposed to slavery as was Miss Frances. Miss Frances willed us to the care of her good Methodist friend Miss Eliza Sands of Ohio.”

“Culture loosens predijuce. I do not believe in social equality at all myself; it cannot be; but we all must learn to keep to our own road, and bear Christian good will towards each other.”

“I do not know of any colored people who are any more superstitious than are white people. They have the advantages of education now equally and are about on the same level. Of course illiterate whites and the illiterate colored man are apt to believe in charms. I do not remember of hearing of any particular superstitious among my church people that I could tell you about, no ma’m, I do not.”

“In church music I hold that the good old hymns of John and of Charles Wesley are the best to be had. I don’ like shouting ‘Spirituals’ show-off and carrying on-never did encourage it! Inward Grace will come out in your singing more than anything else you do, and the impression we carry away from your song and, from the singer are what I count.” Read well, sing correctly, but first, last, remember real inward Grace is what shows forth the most in a song.”

“In New Oreleans where I went to school, (graduated in 1887 from the Freedman’s Aid College) there were 14 or 15 colored churches (methodist) in my youth. New Oreleans is one third colored in population, you understand. Some places in the south the colored outnumber the whites 30 to 1.

“I pastored St. Paul’s church in Louieville, a church of close to 3,000 members. No’ma’m can’t say just how old a church it is.”

“To live a consecrated life, you’d better leave off dancing, drinking smoking and the movies. I’ve never been to a movie in my life. When I hear some of the programs colored folks put on the radio sometimes I feel just like going out to the woodshed and getting my axe and chopping up the radio, I do! It’s natural and graceful to dance, but it is not natural or good to mill around in a low-minded smoky dance hall.”

“I don’t hold it right to put anybody out of church, no ma’m. No matter what they do, I don’t believe in putting anybody out of church.”

“My mother and her children were sent to Miss Eliza Sands at Gallipolis, Ohio after Miss Frances Cree’s death, at Miss Frances’ request. Father did not go, no ma’m. He came later and finished his days with us.”

“We went first to Point Pleasant, then up the river to Gallipolis.”

“After we got there we went to school. A man got me a place in Cincinnati when I was twelve years old. I blacked boots and ran errands of the hotel office until I was thirteen; then I went to the FREEDMAN’S AID COLLEGE in N’ Orleans; remained until I graduated. Shoemaking and carpentering were given to me for trades, but as young fellow I shipped on a freighter plying between New Orleans and Liverpool, thinking I would like to be a seaman. I was a mean tempered boy. As cook’s helper one day, I got mad at the boatswain, threw a pan of hot grease on him.”

The crew wanted me put into irons, but the captain said ‘no,-leave him in Liverpool soon as we land-in about a day or two. When I landed there they left me to be deported back to the States according to law.”

“Yes, I had an aunt live to be 112 years old. She died at Granville (Ohio) some thirty years ago. We know her age from a paper on Dr. Cree’s estate where she was listed as a child of twelve, and that had been one hundred years before.”

“About the music now, you see I’m used to thinking of religion as the working out of life in good deeds, not just a singing-show-off kind.”

Some of the Spirituals are fine, but still I think Wesley hymns are best. I tell my folks that the good Lord isn’t a deaf old gentleman that has to be shouted up to, or amused. I do think we colored people are a little too apt to want to show off in our singing sometimes.”

“I was very small when we went away from Greenbriar County to Point Pleasant, and from there to Gallipolis by wagon. I do remember Mr. Cam. Cree. I was taring around the front lawn where he didn’t want me; he was cross. I remember somebody taking me around the house, and thats all, all that I can remember of the old Virginia home where my folks had belonged for several generations.”

“I’ve pastored large churches in Louisville and St. Louis. In Ohio I have been at Glendale, and at Oxford, other places. This old place was for sale on the court house steps one day when I happened to be in Lebanon. Five acres, yes ma’m. There’s the corner stone with 1822-age of the house. My sight is poor, can’t read, so I do not try to preach much anymore, but I help in church in any way that I am needed, keep busy and happy always! I am able to garden and enjoy life every day. Certainly my life has been a fortunate one in my mother’s belonging to Miss Frances Cree. I have been a minister some forty years. I graduated from Wilberforce College.”

This colored minister has a five acre plot of ground and an old brick house located at the corporation line of the village of Lebanon. He is a medium sized man. Talks very fast. A writer could turn in about 40 pages on an interview with him, but he is very much in earnest about his beliefs. He seems to be rather nervous and has very poor sight. His wife is yellow in color, and has a decidedly oriental cast of face. She is as silent, as he is talkative, and from general appearances of her home she is a very neat housekeeper. Neither of them speak in dialect at all. Wade Glenn does not speak in dialect, although he is from North Carolina.

Cree, Sands, Williams,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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