|CHAPTER II. -- REMOVAL TO PENNSYLVANIA--GOING TO SCHOOL--FIRST RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES--PERNICIOUS READING.|
After my father had got us all free and settled, he wanted to go and see his brother, who had run away for his freedom several years before my father bought himself. The laws of Maryland at that time were, that if a free man went out of the state and stayed over ten days, he lost his residence, and could be taken up and sold, unless some prominent white person interposed; and then sometimes with difficulty they might get him off. But many times poor black men were kidnapped, and would be got out of the way quick. For men who did that sort of business generally looked out for good opportunities. My mother's people all lived in Maryland. She hated to leave her mother, my dear grandmother, and so never would consent to go North. But when my father went away to see his brother, and stayed over the ten days, she thought best to go. Poor mother! How well I remember her. After a week how anxious she was. She used to sit by the fire nearly all night. It was in the fall of the year I know, but I am not able to tell just what year it was. After my father's death, my sister, not knowing the value of the free papers, allowed them all to be destroyed. We were all recorded in the Baltimore court house. Many times I had seen my father show the papers to people. They had a large red seal--the county seal--and my father, or any of us traveling, would have to show our free papers. But those I have not got, so cannot tell the year or date. But, by and by, the ninth day came. I saw my mother walk the floor, look out of the window, and sigh. I used to get up out of my bad and sit in the corner by the fire and watch her, and see the great tears as she would wipe them away with her apron. She would say; "Amanda, why don't you stay in bed?"
I would make an excuse to stay with her. Sometimes I would cry and say I was sick. Then she would call me to her and let me lay my head in her lap; and there is no place on earth so sweet to a child as a mother's lap. I can almost feel the tender, warm, downy lap of my mother now as I write, for so it seemed to me. I loved my father, and thought he was the grandest man that ever lived. I was always the favorite of my father, and I was sorry enough when he was away, and when I saw my mother cry, I would cry, too. Ten days had passed, and father had not come yet.
Every day some of the good farmers around would call to see if "Sam" had got home yet. My father was much respected by all the best white people in that neighborhood, and many of them would not have said anything to him; but, "If nothing was said to Insor's Sam about going out of the state and staying over ten days, why all the niggers in the county would be doing the same thing!"
So this was the cause of the inquiry. Oh! on one knows the sadness and agony of my poor mother's heart. Finally the day came when father returned. Then the friends, white and black, who wished him well, advised him to leave as quickly as possible. And now the breaking up. We were doing well, and father and mother had all the work they could do. The white people in the neighborhood were kind, and gave my mother a good many things, so that we children always had plenty to eat and wear. We had a house, a good large lot, and a good garden, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. And then my mother was a great economist. She could make a little go a great ways. She was a beautiful washer and ironer, and a better cook never lifted a pot. I get my ability in that (if I have any) from my dear mother. Then withal she was an earnest Christian, and had strong faith in God, as did also my grandmother. She was deeply pious, and a woman of marvelous faith and prayer. For the reason stated my parents determined to move from Maryland, and so went to live on a farm owned by John Lowe, and situated on the Baltimore and York turnpike in the State of Pennsylvania.
My father and mother both could read. But I never remember hearing them tell how they were taught. Father was the better reader of the two. Always on Sunday morning after breakfast he would call us children around and read the Bible to us. I
"Very well," she would say. It was hard planning sometimes; yet we children never had to go to bed hungry. After our evening meal, so often of nice milk and mush, she would call us children and make us all say our prayers before we went to bed. I never remember a time when I went to bed without saying the Lord's Prayer as it was taught me by my mother. Even before we were free I was taught to say my prayers.
I first went to school at the age of eight years, to the daughter of an old Methodist minister named Henry Dull; my teacher's name was Isabel Dull. She taught a little private school opposite where my mother lived, in a private house belonging to Isaac Hendricks (Bishop Hendricks' grandfather). She was a great friend of my mother's, and was very pretty, and very kind to us children. She taught me my first spelling lesson. There was school only in the summer time. I had about six weeks of it. I first taught myself to read by cutting out large letters from the newspapers my father would bring home. Then I would lay them on the window and ask mother to put them together for me to make words, so that I could read. I shall never forget how delighted I was when I first read: "The house, the tree, the dog, the cow." I thought I knew it all. I would call the other children about me and show them how I could read. I did not get to go to school any more till I was about thirteen years old. Then we had to go about five miles, my brother and myself. There were but few colored people in that part of the country at that time, to go to school (white school), only about five and they were not regular; but father and mother were so anxious for us to go that they urged us on, and I was anxious also. I shall never forget one cold winter morning. The sun was bright, the snow very deep, and it was bitterly cold. My brother did not go that day, but I wanted to go. Mother thought it was too cold; she was afraid I would freeze; but I told her I could go, and after a little discussion she told me I might go. She told me I could part on my brother's heavy boots. I had on a good thick pair of stockings,
At thirteen years of age I lived in Strausburg, sometimes it was called Shrewsbury, about thirteen miles from York, on the Baltimore and York turnpike. I lived with a Mrs. Latimer. She was a Southern lady, was born in Savannah, Georgia. She was a widow, with five children. It was a good place, Mrs. Latimer was very kind to me and I got on nicely. It was in the spring I went there to live, and sometime in the winter a great revival broke out and went on for weeks at the Allbright Church. I was deeply interested and impressed by the spirit of the meeting. It was an old-fashioned revival, scores were converted. No colored persons went up to be prayed for; there were but few anywhere in the neighborhood. One old man named Moses Rainbow, and his two sons, Samuel and James, were the only colored people that lived anywhere within three or four miles of the town. This meeting went on for four or five weeks. When it closed a series of meetings commenced at the Methodist Church.
One of the members was Miss Mary Bloser, daughter of George Bloser, well known through all that region of country for his deep piety and Christian character, as was Miss Mary, also. She was
One night as she was speaking to persons in the congregation, she came to me, a poor colored girl sitting away back by the door, and with entreaties and tears, which I really felt, she asked me to go forward. I was the only colored girl there, but I went. She knelt beside me with her arm around me and prayed for me. O, how she prayed! I was ignorant, but prayed as best I could. The meeting closed. I went to get up, but found I could not stand. They took hold of me and stood me on my feet. My strength seemed to come to me, but I was frightened. I was afraid to step. I seemed to be so light. In my heart was peace, but I did not know how to exercise faith as I should. I went home and resolved I would be the Lord's and live for him. All the days were happy and bright. I sang and worked and thought that was all I needed to do. Then I joined the Church. I don't remember the name of the minister, but I well remember the name of my class leader was Joshua Ludrick. I liked him for his lung power, for I thought then there was a good deal of religion in loud prayers and shouts. You could hear him pray half a mile when he would get properly stirred. He was leader of the Sunday morning class, which convened after the morning preaching. My father and mother, to encourage me in my new life, joined the Church and the same class, so as to save me from going out at night. Mrs. Latimer's children, three of them, went to the Sunday School, and I must get home so as to have dinner in time for the children to get off, but I was black, so could not be led in class before a white person, must wait till the white ones were through, and I would get such a scolding when I got home, the children would all be so vexed with me, and Mrs. Latimer, and my troubles had begun. I prayed and thought it was my cross. I thought I will change my seat in the class, may be that will help me, and sat in the first end of the pew, as the leader would always commence on the first end and go down. When I sat in the first end, then he would commence at the lower end and come up and leave me last. Then I sat between two, thinking he would lead the two above me and then lead me in turn, but he would lead the two and then jump across me and lead all the others and lead me last. I told my
It has been years ago. While living at Black's hotel, in Columbia, I remember reading a book. I forget the title of it, but it was an argument between an infidel and a Christian minister. As I went on reading I became very much interested. "Oh," I thought to myself, "I know the Christian minister will win." It starts with the infidel asking a question. The minister's answer took two pages, while the question asked only took one page and a half. As they went on the minister gained three pages with his answer; and the infidel seemed to lose. And then it went on, and by and by the minister began to lose, and the infidel gained. So it went on till the infidel seemed to gain all the ground. His questions and argument were so pretty and put in such a way that before I knew it I was captured; and by the time I had got through the book I had the whole of the infidel's article stamped on my memory and spirit, and the Christian's argument was lost; I could scarcely remember any of it. Well, I was afraid to tell any one. Oh, if any one should find out that I did not believe in the existence of God. I longed for some one to talk to that I might empty my crop of the load of folly that I had gathered. And I read everything I could get my hands on, so as to strengthen me in my new light, as I thought. Yet I wanted to forget it, and get out of it. But it was like a snare; I could not. A year had gone. I talked big and let out a little bit now and then. How beautiful the old hymn:
"When Jesus saw me from on high,
Beheld my soul in ruin lie,
He looked at me with pitying eye,
And said to me as he passed by,
'With God you have no union.'"
Oh, how true! I longed for deliverance, but how to get free. The Lord sent help in this way: My aunt, my mother's half sister, who now lives in Baltimore, and whom I loved very much, came up to York, and then to Wrightsville, to visit father and us children. I lived in Columbia; and I went over to see her and had her come over with me. "Now," I thought, "this will be my chance to unburden by heart. Aunt lives away down in the country in Quaker Bottom, or in the neighborhood of Hereford, Md., and I know no one there, and no one knows me; I shall never be there; and just so that no one knows around here, that is all I care for."
My aunt was very religiously inclined, naturally. She was much like my mother in spirit. So as we walked along, crossing the long bridge, at that time a mile and a quarter long, we stopped, and were looking off in the water. Aunt said, "How wonderfully God has created everything, the sky, and the great waters, etc."
Then I let out with my biggest gun; I said, "How do you know there is a God?" and went on with just such an air as a poor, blind, ignorant infidel is capable of putting on. My aunt turned and looked at me with a look that went through me like an arrow; then stamping her foot, she said:
"Don't you ever speak to me again. Anybody that had as good a Christian mother as you had, and was raised as you have been, to speak so to me. I don't want to talk to you." And God broke the snare. I felt it. I felt deliverance from that hour. How many times I have thanked God for my aunt's help. If she had argued with me I don't believe I should ever have got out of that snare of the devil. And I would say to my readers, "Beware how you read books tainted with error." There are enough of the orthodox kind that will help you if you will be content with them and the Book of books. Amen.