FIRST HELPERS IN NEW
The first helper God sent to me in New Orleans was Carrie Vaughn. She was young, a good singer and very fond of children. At first she said she couldn't talk in public. "No matter, sing your sweet songs and that's enough," was my reply. One day at a meeting in the country I said, "the children do not understand that hymn, I am tired, you explain it, verse by verse." She began in a clear, interesting manner that charmed both old and young. When I got home I said, "You know what happened to the man that buried his talent? You have a talent for talking to children, I know by the way you explained that hymn." This encouraged her and she proved a useful helper. All enjoyed her singing. After leaving me she became the wife of Rev. G. W. Scott, and accompanied her husband to Japan to share his labor as a missionary.
It was a glad day that brought to my home Alibis Dyer, of Dayton, Ohio, in September, 1876. I had been alone for several months and when I came home tired each evening everything had looked very dark and lonely, but now her sweet young face, her love and her courage shined away the darkness. Yes, she was courageous, nothing was too hard for her to attempt. Once we were preparing for a Christmas tree. We were upstairs in the church down in one of the alleys she saw from the church window a man beating his wife, and flew downstairs. The first thing I knew there stood Abbie grasping the husband's arm and beseeching him not to strike his wife. I feared the police might come and arrest them. So down I went, but the quarrel was about over. In one of the trips near the Gulf of Mexico, Abbie was taken sick from exposure and was not able to return to the work. But she still lives to bless the world as the wife of Dr. Allen, a fine oculist and aurist.
March, 1877, Dr. and Mrs. Blackwell visited New Orleans and brought me a commission from the Woman's Baptist Home Mission Society. This meant help, prayer, courage, perseverance, and supplies for all hungry hearts and neglected bodies of poor colored people. I thanked God and took courage; it has done more than I then hoped for, because now streams of blessings carry comfort and help to twelve different nationalities besides the negroes. Praise the Lord! The first missionaries they sent me were the immortal Jennie L. Peck, Helen R. Jackson, Agnes Wilson, and Sarah Butler. They were four of the best women that ever lived. I have never ceased to thank God for their help. There they stood with such happy faces, willing hands, and hopeful hearts ready for any work, however hard, that I suggested. It is true they often tired carrying bundles and clothing to the poor, packets of books and papers, from early in the morning till late at night, but without a word of complaint. We were all very happy. My readers need never waste pity on true missionaries, because they are the happiest people in the world. We soon spread out all over New Orleans, Gretna, and Algiers, two towns on the opposite side of the river. Later I took sometimes one and sometimes another to help me in plantation work.
Dear Helen Jackson, after two years with me was transferred to Raleigh, N. C., and later to Richmond, Va. After many years of continuous and fruitful service, she was called from earth to heaven in August, 1898.
Jennie Peck became a general missionary in Texas in 1884, and since 1895 she has been preceptress of the Caroline Bishop Training School for Colored Women in Dallas, Texas. I have asked her to tell which of all our varied lines of work seemed to her the most important. In reply she sends me the following:
My Dear Miss Moore:?It was giving the Bible to the people and seeing the wonderful power it had to enlighten the minds, reach hearts, and change lives. Indeed, ever since I have been in the work, that is all that seems to pay. I have never known anything that seemed to me so blessed as what we did when we took our arms full of Bibles and went out to the country to those who had no light.
They read the Bible. God kept His promise and our faith was constantly strengthened as we saw how "The entrance of His word gave light" through the power of the spirit, and their lives were changed by it. If I were writing a book of our work I'd want above all things to make it show to those who read it, the wonderful power of the Word of God. If Christians believed in the Holy Bible as they should, they would hasten to supply the people with Bibles, and then God's cause would prosper.
Dear Sister Peck, I surely agree with your testimony, and along with the Bible should go a spirit-filled teacher, to patiently explain the scriptures, and urge the necessity of daily study. This is the work of our missionaries and of our Fireside Schools.
Agnes Wilson, who has for a number of years been the wife of Rev. Amos Weaver, a Baptist pastor, sends me the following from her journal:
"We landed at a strange place one night, as the boat stopped to take on freight. We never knew at what hour we would reach our destination. We had hard work to find shelter till morning. Finally the woman who kept a store permitted us to go in and we lodged on the counter. As morning dawned we committed Isaiah 41 :10. We found our people at the church, as this was the Sabbath, teaching the Sunday school with day school books, there being no Bibles. They were raising money for churches by fairs on the Sabbath day. We continued some days at this point. I remember once Kitty Sherwood and I were obliged to leave Osborn Dickerson's church, because the white people who sold liquor were opposed to our temperance and Bible work as it interfered with their business. They wrote threatening letters to us, and told the colored people we must leave.
"Later, Miss Moore took me and went back, entering those same stores, offering them Bibles and teaching temperance to the very persons who had written notes of intimidation. We stayed and finished the canvass. We found that several who had signed the temperance pledge had broken it, the pastor among the number, but they all repented and signed again. I remember one planter who had come from the East, his name was Palmer, his sister had a school for colored children in one room of their residence. They were very kind to their colored neighbors."
Sarah Butler, now the wife of Rev. J. E. Morris, a Baptist minister, sends me this letter :
Dear Miss Moore:?My first trip with you was taken to Napoleonville, Assumption Parish, in 1879. We organized a Sunday school with an enrollment of 29, but during the week we visited the plantations round there and the next Sabbath we had 125 at Sunday school. We organized a temperance society there, but it did not amount to much because we could not get the pastor to sign the pledge. We sold a good many books there and among them fourteen Gospels of St. John in large print. At that time Sister Smith, who was 60 years old, bought one, and in two days learned to read two verses of the 14th chapter. When we went back in a month she could read fourteen verses, and was very happy.
Our next stop was at Rev. Nelson's church. There we had such an interesting teachers' meeting. There were five men, none of whom could read well. We all seated ourselves around a small table, on which was a feeble light, but the men were so interested in the study of the Bible that we had a good time. It was on that trip that one of the good brothers took us a five-mile drive to another church, with mule and cart. The harness on the mule was wonderful. The lines were made of small rope, and all the harness was tied together with strings.
We sat on chairs in the cart but the roads were rough and we were pitched from one side to the other. We enjoyed it, however, and I can see our driver now, laughing heartily and apparently as much amused as we were.
It was on this trip, too, that we had such a hard time to get anything to eat. You made mush for breakfast and then found we had no milk to use with it, and we had to wait until our hostess milked the cow, and then the milk was strained through a dirty cloth. We asked the sister to cook the eggs in the shell, thinking they, at least, would be clean, but when we broke them into our cups, we found that the cups were dirty.
We were out ten days at that time. I visited 119 houses, attended three Sunday schools, two temperance meetings, five children's meetings, and three meetings on the plantations. I sold $15.65 worth of Bibles and Testaments. By the report, you did twice as much. You were with me at some of the meetings, but part of the time at other places.
I sold a Bible to a man who had been preaching seven years and had never owned one. He said he used to go to the school teacher and get her Bible to find a text. Then he hugged his Bible and said, "But now I have one of my own."
Later Agnes (Miss Wilson) and I went again into Assumption Parish. In all we took four trips down
there within a year. We held teachers' meetings, one Sunday school institute, and spent a good deal of time looking after the temperance work. At one church we found eight who had kept the pledge, but four had broken it. Three renewed their pledge, and five more took it, but the minister still held out against it.
At another place eleven had kept their pledges and among them three old men who had been confirmed drunkards. The grocer there was much put out with us, because he couldn't sell as much liquor as before.
At still another church eight had kept the pledge, seven had broken it. Some of these renewed and sixteen others signed. These we asked to stand and Agnes prayed for them.
At our last meeting, thirty-two who were present had kept the pledge but sixteen had broken it, the minister among them. He confessed that he had done wrong, as did the others, and were received back into the society.
We took three trips into Plaquimine Parish, one of the largest in the state. In the upper part were some of the largest plantations I ever saw, but as we went down and came nearer the mouth of the river we found the little rice farms owned by colored as well as whites. All the colored people were Baptists except those belonging to one Methodist church. All the whites were Catholics except those belonging to one Episcopal church. The pastor of this white Episcopal church was very cordial to us and so glad to know that the Bible was being distributed. For thirty-two miles on one side of the river, there were no public schools for the colored children. In that space there were fifteen plantations and one settlement; you can realize how many children were without instruction. Our first trip in this parish was taken November 13, 1879, and we were gone five days. We took a second trip, during which together we made 210 visits, organized three Sunday schools, attended two others, held five children's meetings, and three Bible readings, visited ten plantations and five settlements, and were gone seven days.
March 6, 1880, we went again for five days. We made 167 visits, organized two Sunday schools, at tended three others, organized one temperance society and held four other meetings, visited four settlements and five plantations, and sold $23 worth of Bibles, Testaments, and hymn books. When we visited a plantation we always asked permission of the planter to visit in the quarters.
If we reached there at noon or night we could have a meeting with the older people, if in the middle of either morning or afternoon we could always get the children. At Magnolia plantation we found a kind planter and a nice class of colored people. These people hired a teacher for themselves. He was a Christian man and carried on the Sunday school for them. At the next two places, Lee's and Woodland, there were about 100 children on each plantation. They had no school and were so dull we couldn't seem to teach them anything. The people wanted Sunday schools, but the pastor on each place was a drinking man and opposed them. It almost caused a quarrel in the church and we gave it up. We visited the churches at St. Sophia and Oakville where Jennie Peck and Abbie Dyer had been two years before. At the former place the Sunday school had been kept up, and although the temperance society had been given up, eight persons had kept their pledges, and at the latter, nine had been equally faithful.
We went to some plantations where there was not a single Bible. It was so at Junior plantation, and we sold one Bible and four Testaments and gave away one. At Deer Range plantation there was no school of any kind and great destitution. The planter's wife didn't want us to go round to the quarters but finally consented. There were a few Christians, and amongst them a young girl named Epsy Cole. She went with me, and when introducing me at one time said, "This is a sister, just like us." Another time, "She is a Christian, and has the Bible that tells about Jesus."
We spent one Sunday on our first trip in and around the St. James Baptist Church. There was no day school there and the children seemed stupid, but they had a good pastor and the old people seemed anxious to learn. We organized a Sunday school with fifty-eight enrolled. We left them the Sunday school reader and you gave them cards with Bible texts to be learned. These were to be used as prizes for attendance. When we visited them two months later the school was still flourishing, old and young were learning to read, and the old people as well as children would come up in front to recite the verses and receive their Bible cards. Some had earned a large card, having been present five Sabbaths and having learned their verses. In our visit to this place, some of the white women asked us why we wouldn't organize a Sunday school for white children. We said we were willing to, and did so in the afternoon at the school-house. There were forty enrolled, but the school was short lived. One white woman said the colored people were more anxious to learn than the whites.
Thursday, April 15, 1880, we started for St. Landry Parish. Bro. Sam. White had been begging you for a long time to come there. He had bought a new covered buggy to take you around in, and we traveled 158 miles in it. We visited ten churches, held thirty-four meetings. We found great need of temperance work, and 243 signed the pledge. The place of most interest to me was at Bledsaw, Brother John Horn's church. The building was like a great barn, and was filled with people. There were some lights around the pulpit but all the rest was dark. You gave the Bible lesson on Luke 18, and I taught them some songs. Those that could read came to the front and read the Bible verses, and you closed with a temperance lesson. One brother said he couldn't read very much and he didn't know those verses were in the Bible; when you asked who would sign the pledge, he was the first to come forward. Said he had drank whisky all his life but he could give it up after learning those Bible verses.
We organized a temperance society and this brother was made president. We sold a good many books. Closed the meeting at eleven o'clock, but twenty-four persons followed us to the house where we spent the night. We studied the Sunday school lesson with them, and sang till 1 o'clock, and then had to send them home. Those who hadn't their money with them the night before came back by 4 o'clock the next morning and you got up and sold them books and talked to them. I was so worn out that I remained in bed.
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