After I returned to Louisiana from Selma in 1883 it was decided that I give all my time to work in the country. My first effort at a Training School for Mothers was in Thibodeaux in September. It only lasted ten days. Some of the missionaries from New Orleans came and helped me. Men as well as women attended. One of our subjects was missionary work under five heads, (1) in the heart, (2) the home, (3) among my neighbors, (4) in my church, (5) in all the world. Of the last we said: A light that shines pure and steady in the first four places will by its influence reach the whole world. Another subject was the training of children under three heads, the heart, mind, and body. In fact all our lessons for all these years are included in the above subjects.
The account of our next school in 1884 is found connected with the following report of the
MORGAN CITY READING ROOM.
After I transferred my headquarters to Morgan City I saw the great need of a reading room or some place where a poor colored man that was a stranger could sit down and rest. Morgan City is on Morgan Bay not far from the Gulf of Mexico. The trade brought many boats to and from the town. Men who tarried there for a few days had no place of rest except a saloon. One Sabbath I started early so as to take Joe Vincent some books. He was barkeeper in Alex. Oliver's saloon. He had signed the pledge about six weeks before and kept it. Early as it was, I found a congregation and read the Bible and had a social talk. As I sat there this reading room came up before me and I asked God to give us a quiet spot dedicated to religion and humanity, where young men could be sheltered and helped. I left the saloon, made several visits, taught a class in Rev. Wilson's Sunday school, and then went to Sims' house and coaxed his wife to go with me to Rev. Evan's Sunday school. The rain was pouring down and we found the church door locked. We looked a little further and saw a door open and a congregation gathered. They had come through the storm that kept Christians indoors that rainy day. Can it be possible that a thirst for strong drink has a greater power over a sinner than the love of Christ has over a Christian? The door thus open was that of Mr. Livingston's saloon. He welcomed us, for both he and Mr. Oliver were gentlemen in manners. Sister Sims and her little daughter were with me; they sang Gospel hymns and I talked in a loving way of Jesus' love and power to lead us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. They listened with quiet respect. Four of the men present were only a little under the influence of liquor; they rose and acknowledged that whisky had ruined them. Out Of 23 in this saloon congregation were six boys present between the ages of 13 and 16 years. As I looked at those poor men standing there in their prison and the boys around whom the chains were fast growing strong, tears came, but all that was left for us to do was to kneel on that wet, muddy floor and tell Jesus all about it. The prayer was heard and this room is a part of the answer. The day following I went to New Orleans to attend the annual meeting of the W. C. T. U. of Louisiana. Our blessed Miss Willard was there and through her influence and that of Mrs. Cole, my pastor's wife, I was allowed to read a paper on the need of temperance for the colored people. Because of the character of my work it was difficult for me to get a hearing before white folks, but God opened the way and touched many hearts. I explained the need of a reading room. After I sat down Horace Waters, the piano merchant, came up and gave me $70 with a "God bless you." Dear Sister Lathrop of Michigan and Mrs. Merrich, the president of the Louisiana W. C. T. U. each kindly gave me $1.00; Miss Dunning, a teacher in Leland, $2.00; besides I had just received $5.00 for my work from Mr. McVinty of Pennsylvania; in all I had 19 blessed dollars and God's promise. I went home and told our pastors, and Dr. Gray and Mrs. Pharr (both white). All promised help. We rented a house in the midst of three saloons and nearly opposite Mr. Oliver's. The other two were kept by white men but the colored were made welcome. We employed Mr. and Mrs. Sims. He was only to give his nights. This room was kept open from 6 a. m. till 10 p. m. for four months and a cheaper one for two months longer, without any expense to the citizens except $5 given by the white people. Our colored people were slow to see the use of such agencies and are the same to-day. A mighty work was done in that reading room. While it was open I conducted a training school for five weeks, to which came twelve women from other towns and the country. The citizens lodged them and gave them coffee and bread in the morning and I gave them one good meal daily, and on that they were kept in good health. All the morning till 1 p. m. was spent in study, then dinner and visits in the homes and little cottage meetings till night. In this work I had the help of Miss Belle Harris. Her health was quite frail but her spirit was willing. "How did the reading room help?" you ask. I had a number of charts on temperance and pictures by which I could explain the sin of drunkenness because many, indeed the greater number even of the young men could not read, but there was always some one in the room who could read to them. Men, women, and children came. I gave all the books that were appropriate from my library. Then I had D. L. Moody's and Charles Foster's books. These are two men for whom I have thanked God for many years, because, like Paul in 1st Cor. 14:19 five of their words were worth ten thousand words of many writers who use words to hide truth rather than to reveal it. But these good men were clear and simple in their teachings, and like their Master "the common people heard them gladly." I hear so many sermons these days whose connection with Christ and His Bible I cannot see. O brothers, make the way to the Cross plain, for we have not long to stay.
Let me see, we were talking about the reading room. One rainy day while our training school was in session and Alex. Oliver's saloon was crowded, the Spirit led me to say, "Sisters, you stay here and pray, and I will take one of you and go to that saloon and tell them about Jesus." We went. There were two gambling tables and Mr. Oliver was counting for one of them, and there was much noise in the room; but He who stilled the tempest was with us. I said, "Mr. Oliver, I want to talk to some of these men if they will come over to that corner of the room." He said, "All right," but scarcely looked up, and the gamblers never raised their heads. However, I got about half the men into "that corner." I did not tell them they were drunkards nor did I refer to any of their sins. I read Acts 26:17-18 and said, "God sent me here to tell you about the blessed Saviour, the one that saved Paul who wrote these words. His eyes were once shut, but God opened them till he could see Jesus, the one that loved him. Paul was forgiven and now lives in glory. I will follow Paul soon; now I want you to go along with me. Will you come?" The men crowded up close and listened with eager eyes and ears. Yes, they said, they wanted to go where Paul was. Then I said we will all kneel and you be sure to tell Jesus what you have told me. As soon as we knelt God made the gamblers drop their cards and keep still. Some went silently out of the room. Christ was real to me that day. Glory to His name. Mr. Oliver was convicted of sin and never rested till God spoke peace to his soul. He came to one of our reading room meetings and saw a picture?"The drunkard's five steps to ruin," that deeply impressed him. I wanted him to pour his whisky all out on the street, but he did not do that. However, he closed his saloon at a great sacrifice. I brought him to school in Leland University. He had a good mind, had been a school teacher, was ordained for the ministry and became pastor of a church. I am told that a church occupies the site of his saloon.
The next year I felt called to work in another association. The books were kept in a pastor's home and used for several months, then taken across the bay to another church where they did good service. They were, finally, given away to persons who read them.
As a result of our training school and the labors of Sisters Pound and Thompson part of the time, we secured from the gleaning of the women and children that year $45.00 for Africa and $58 for the Women's Baptist Home Mission Society. Children were often converted in our meetings. Bible lessons were taught in very many homes, mostly by our good sisters visiting their neighbors. I visited myself in that association 14 churches, conducted 82 religious meetings, attended one Pastor's Institute where I read three papers. This institute was conducted by Brother H. Woodsmall, who was employed by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. He was one of the wisest and most successful Christian workers the world ever saw. There were many agencies at work part of 1884 in that 5th District Association, as it was called, and to-day they are still reaping the good results. Praise the Lord. You ask where did I get the money to support the reading room and the training school? I answer, often from persons who wrote to me but never met me. I always replied and told them the good accomplished. I wrote many letters at night. Indeed, when I was not at meetings I was writing a great part of the night. People must know of a work before they will give and after these people knew, God spoke to their hearts telling them to give. This was done in answer to both prayer and labor.
My reading room craze did not end with Morgan City. I had another room fitted up in Plaquemine and after I settled in Nashville I tried to have the room open in one of the churches certain hours of certain days and nights in the week and hired a young man to care for it one month; but no one seemed to see its use, yet it accomplished something; the books were lent and returned; finally they were all out in homes and I did not try to gather them up. Next I put a large number of my best books in a room rented by the colored Young Men's Christian Association. This did some good, but it did not accomplish what I expected. Next I put books in a little mission room, but that was not a success. It is hard to make the people see the value of good reading. While in Little Rock, I was sick one day and as I sat and looked at my books lying idle on the shelves, I talked to the Lord Jesus, myself, and the books about as follows: Dear Lord, you have said to me, "Occupy till I come"; I am looking for you to come every day. Those books are a part of myself and they should be occupied in doing good. I would be ashamed to have you come and find any part of me idle. Books, you get down off those shelves and "go about doing good"; the world needs you, and I get but little time to read you. Get down, I say! and they did get down and they did go to work. I have spent a great amount of money for books in my life because good books have helped Sister Moore and they will help others. God sent us while in Little Rock Miss Laura Beck of Indiana, who arranged a circulating library, in which we had over 300 good books, and I think they were wisely used while we remained there. You will see by the fireside-school catalogue of 1901 that we have donated $2,476.19 worth of books and sold $5,621.13 worth during the last six years. The average cost of these books is about 18 cents apiece. So you see many thousands of homes and hearts have been fed with helpful thoughts through our books. This does not include all the books we have given or sold, but only those of which a record has been kept. Many were given and sold by myself and I failed to keep account of them. And yet the demand is far beyond the supply. Satan is ahead of me in most homes. To illustrate: As I called at a home in Nashville, I saw a girl reading intently; she went out and her mother said, "Mary is so fond of reading that I cannot get her to help me with the work. She is the only one in the family that can read, but she will not read to me nor the younger children." At another time I found this girl and saw that her book was a filthy novel, which some school girl had given her. I gave her a good book and asked her to read it to the younger children, but she would not. Her taste for good books was destroyed. This is the evil that our Fireside school hopes to correct by placing in the hands of the young mother good books which she is supposed to begin to read to her children when they are not more than two years of age and keep on, daily, until they are no longer children in her home. In this way their taste for good reading becomes so strong that bad books will have no attractions. Does my reader see the point, and will she stop and pray that good books may travel fast enough to keep ahead of bad ones.
"If good we plant not, vice will fill the place,
And rankest weeds the richest soil deface."
But in this as in all else eternal vigilance is the way to success. We need especially the co-operation of teachers and pastors to help when parents have not had a chance for education?this is the case with many white people as well as colored. Open your eyes and look. Watch your beginnings.
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