SOME NOTABLE PASTORS.
Rev. Osborn Dickerson was a remarkable minister, pastor of a Baptist church on Bayou LaFourche, Louisiana. I often visited his church. He had been well raised in Virginia and taught to read by his mistress, though she knew it was contrary to law. She consented reluctantly to the sale of this favorite slave, because she very much needed the money. She was a widow and her sons thought she was giving this servant too much freedom; he might run away some day. He was sold in 1840 to a trader from New Orleans. His mistress in tears said good-bye, giving him a Bible and hymn book and telling him to read them daily. In New Orleans he was sold to a planter with whom he remained till freedom came. The other slaves told him to burn his books saying, "If you are found with a book you will get a hundred lashes."
He destroyed all but his Bible; that he hid in a hole in the ground under his cabin floor. I will tell you his story in his own words as near as I can remember.
"This Bible I used to dig up and read at midnight when all were asleep, and sing in low tones some of the hymns that I could remember. After a while I became less afraid and would read it late in the evening. Once, near dark, I was sitting away back in my cabin, so interested in reading about the blessed Saviour that I did not hear the master till he stood right over me. 'Osborn,' said he, 'do you know how to read?' 'Yes,' I answered all in a tremble. 'Did you know it against my rules?' 'Yes, I did.' He then snatched the book, tore and threw it in the fire. That was like taking the very heart out of me. I expected the hundred lashes but I prayed and the master walked out of the cabin without another word. I said, "That is God who shut the lion's mouth; He is the same God to-day." I had been preaching to the slaves about Jesus and singing the hymns that I could remember. Several got religion and one of them was Stephen, the servant who waited on master. He had been with him many years, had nursed him when a child. About a year after the loss of my Bible this servant got sick and died. The master was mighty sorry. As he sat by the bedside when he was dying, Stephen said, 'Master, I have one request to make; will you grant it?' 'Yes, Stephen, anything you want I would do,' 'Well, after I am dead, please master, let Osborn bury me. Let him sing and pray at my grave.' This the master promised. The cart came and carried the coffin to the servant's graveyard. The master was there on horseback, the other friends standing around the grave. I prayed and repeated some verses about the resurrection and sang, lining out the hymn. When I came to the words, 'The tall, the wise, the reverent head must be as low as ours,' the master uttered a cry and fell from his horse. The servants carried him away. The next morning he sent for me. Now again I prayed to Daniel's God, for I feared master would stop my preaching. 'Osborn,' said he, 'you may teach your religion here on my place as much as you like and as you have time to preach, but do not go onto any other plantation, for it is against the law. And you must be as quiet as you can.' That is the way the Lord opened the Red Sea for me. I never got another Bible until the Yankees came. The first thing I said to them was, 'Give me a Bible'; and I got one. That was as great a joy to me as freedom." I've not time to tell you his whole story, but Osborn Dickerson believed in prayer. He was a man of considerable intelligence, and very much of a gentleman in his manners. He continued pastor until his death.
The following account of the Rev. Thomas Peterson, of New Orleans, was given by himself, and those who knew of him testify to its truthfulness:
"I was sold in New Orleans when very young for $350, and converted about twenty years before freedom. God taught me how to read. I was forbidden to preach, but God called me and I did preach. Five times I got one hundred lashes for telling about the God who saved me. I suppose they would have killed me, only I was a good servant to work. They said I took the time that belonged to my master; but God was my master. When freedom came I went up and down the river and preached. All were Catholics, but before 1870 I had more than fifty churches organized." I met with his association the year I came to New Orleans. He introduced me as follows:
"I have been up and down the Mississippi River, organized fifty churches and told them all I know. Now I turn you all over to Sister Moore. She is calculated to build you up. She knows the Bible all by heart, because she has showed me some points I did not see before." I went out in the country to most of his fifty churches and had a chance to show them "several points they had not seen before."
Rev. Peterson was a Baptist but his work was independent. He lacked the humility and meekness of Dickerson, but his work needed boldness. He was a good man. I have read the Bible with him often and always found him teachable and thankful for my help. I visited him a short time before his death and prayed with him. His faith was very strong in God. Peterson was the kind of man out of which martyrs are made.
I wish I had time to tell you of George Armstead, of Napoleonville, who carried Sarah Butler and me to the surrounding plantations in 1879. Jeff Rhodes of Thibodeaux, was another remarkable character; also Daniel King of St. James's Parish, and others that I could mention. I doubt if we have any ministers to-day who are more devout or more useful in their day than were those I have mentioned and several others in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, who held onto truth and justice and lived good, pure lives amid many temptations and discouragements. Surely their memories should be lovingly cherished. In the early days of my mission work in the South, I met a great many of these old slaves-- leaders of their people, both men and women, noble, talented characters of which any race might be proud. Oh! if they had only had a chance!
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved