Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Come Let Us Worship

Where and how did our slave ancestors who were Christians worship God? Who preached the message? Looking through records where my ancestors lived, I found five different methods used by my ancestors.

1. Slave Owner(s) Hired Preacher for Negroes
Slave owners of Jefferson County, MS, hired Rev Smily to preach to their Negroes. I haven't found information on Zion Hill but know the family worships(ed) at a Zion Chapel in the area. I don't know if there is a connection between Zion Hill and Zion Chapel.

We the undersigned promise to pay the Rev. J H Smily the sums annexed to our names for his services viz to preach to the Negroes at Zion Hill twice in each month for the balance of this year commencing with April, payable the first of January next. this April 3rd 1858

Wm Shaw $15.00 paid - Shaw owned 53 slaves in 1860
D McArn $20.00 paid - McArn owned 51 slaves in 1860
D H Cameron $5 paid - Cameron owned 21 slaves in 1860
R D Torrey $5 paid - Torrey owned 24 slaves in 1860
M McPherson $5 paid - McPherson owned 8 slaves in 1860
John C McCormick $2 paid - McCormick owned 9 slaves in 1860
J ? Scott $5 paid - J L Scott owned 18, J W Scott owned 22 in 1860
?? paid by corn

Shaw, McArn, Cameron, Torrey, and McCormick owned members of my family.

2. Separate Service in Slave Owner's Church

Mrs Lottie Warren, a member of Union Church Presbyterian Church of Jefferson County. MS, gave this account of the separate church services. The picture of the building in the forefront is the actual building the ancestors used.
Church services were held once a month. On that Sunday two services were held, one for the whites and later in the afternoon one was held for the servants. The Elders of the church always attended these services. The singing of the servants was said to be so beautiful that the people of the village would come outside to hear the singing.

We was let go to church in de white folks meetin' house an' us was taught to be polite an' how to act.
Simon Durr, Simpson County, Mississippi - Simon was enslaved by Michael Durr of Simpson County, the same slave owner of my 2nd great grandfather Josephus Durr.

3. Services in Woods Under Brush Arbor

Picture from Latiba Museum

When we wanted to have our own services we collected up an' went to de woods an' built big brush arbors an' at nite we'd build great big fires an' had sho' nuf services. We could sing an' shout, an' dats what we wanted to do. Dey would hum an' morn all through de services. De preachers didn't hab no book learning but when a darkie wanted to preacher, he was give a try out, by gitting up an' trying to preach a time or two an' if he suited de folks an' they thought he could preach, dey would say fer him to preach an' if he didnt suit 'em dey would say fer him not too.
Robert Weathersby of Simpson County, Mississippi - Robert Weathersby was a part of the same family that enslaved my 2nd great grandfather Josephus Durr.

4. Attended Services with Slave Owner
Us went to meetin' once a month wid de white folks an' set in de back. Us waited on 'em, toted in water an' tended ter de chilluns. When de meetin' was ober us kotched de horses an' led 'em to deir blocks an' brung de carriages 'round fer 'em.
Manda Boggan of Simpson County, MS

On church days I driv' de carriage. I was proud to take my folks to meetin'. I always set in de back pew an' heard de preachin' de same as dey did.
Isaac Stier of Franklin County, MS.

5. Slave Owner Gave Biblical Instructions
We didn' go to church, but Sundays we'd gather 'roun' an' listen to the mistis read a little out o' the Bible. The marster said we didn' need no religion an' he finally stopped her from readin' to us.
Charlie Moses of Lincoln County, Mississippi - Charlie lived in the ancestors hometown, Brookhaven, MS.

How and where did your ancestors worship during slavery?


  1. I knew some black Whethersbys and Durrs when I lived in Simpson County.

    I'll have too look and see if I can figure it out. So far I only know how they worshiped once they were free.

    1. My ancestor Josephus Durr left Simpson County, after the War, for Copiah County where he remained raising his family.

  2. What are "sho nuf services"? It is so amazing how this slang is still used today, usually wriiten as "sho nuff".

    1. I think the word is slang for sure enough. I think the person was conveying that we had the real thing, the service we wanted to have.

    2. Thanks for explaining. I almost forgot the slave narrative of the brother of my 3x great-grandmother. This is what he said, "Us white folks all Catholic. Us not go to church, but all chillen christen. Dat in St. Martinville Catholic Church. All us christen dere. After freedom I start go to church reg'lar. I still does." (,%20Peter.html)

    3. Interesting, that branch of your family adopted Catholicism after "us white folks." I treasure the slave narratives associated with my family as I am sure you do.