A slave in Vermont

A slave in Vermont

New England Congregational church minute books from the nineteenth century abound in routine details: admissions, dismissals, committee experiences and the like that don’t make for compelling studying. Ivy Dixon, historian of the Pittsford Congregational Church, discovered this exceptional episode showing intermittently from 1842 to 1850. Lengthy forgotten, this story of 1 expatriate church member has undercurrents that also hang-out us right this moment.

Pittsford Congregational Church, based in 1784. The current construction, overlooking the village inexperienced, dates from 1837.

Hannah Weed Hitchcock (1815–1898), daughter of John Hitchcock (1760–1836) and his second spouse Lucy Ripley, later Manley (1789–1865), turned a member of the church in 1834. Hannah’s father served as a soldier within the American Revolution. She was named for John Hitchcock’s first spouse, Hannah, who died in 1814, having given delivery to 9 infants, all of whom died in infancy! Hitchcock’s second household had distinctive educations for the occasions: sons William graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, and John Hitchcock, lifeless at 25, attended Middlebury School however left for a stint in Alabama to enhance his well being. The Hitchcock daughters additionally had spectacular educations: Frances graduated from Mt. Holyoke Feminine Seminary, and Elmira from Burlington Feminine Seminary. Hannah possible had {qualifications} equal to these of her sisters. In 1838, she left Vermont to show in Alabama. There she married Horatio Austin Smith (1811–1891), a Vermont native, who turned an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Hannah evidently made journeys house to Pittsford to go to household. Pittsford Congregational Church minutes from 25 September 1842 file the next:

They’ve confirmed with the husband of Mrs. Smith who was on the town and her brother [John] and discover that she has introduced a slave for functions of home comfort and pecuniary income. Church voted the topic to be referred again to the committee with directions to correspond with Mrs. Smith and procure her causes for participating in slavery.

This controversy dragged on for eight years, coming to a head in 1850. The church despatched no less than two letters of admonition to Hannah. On 28 June 1850, the church minutes famous “she responded with the circumstances through which she is positioned justify her in buying and holding an individual in slavery. The church after lengthy deliberation on the topic handed the next … that the fees introduced towards her are sustained.”  Three months later, on 27 September 1850, Pastor Charles Walker wrote “Whereupon the church voted, in view of the fees towards Mrs. Smith … that she be excommunicated from our physique.” No different file exists for the excommunication of a church member.

The case of Hannah Hitchcock Smith reminds us that up till the Civil Struggle, Christian church buildings had been divided with regards to slavery.

The case of Hannah Hitchcock Smith reminds us that up till the Civil Struggle, Christian church buildings had been divided with regards to slavery. Many southern Baptist and Episcopal church buildings condoned slavery, citing its presence within the Bible. By the 1840s, most New England Congregational ministers allied themselves with the abolitionist motion. Pittsford was no exception. Hannah’s excommunication, nevertheless, didn’t deter her or her husband of their church work. Nor did it diminish their capability as slaveowners.

On the time of the 1860 census for Bibb County, Alabama, the H. A. Smith family appears to be like simple sufficient, as seen under:

Take a more in-depth have a look at what the numbers imply. H.A. Smith has $3000 value of actual property, however $10,500 in private property. Why such a discrepancy between the 2 values, particularly for a minister? To seek out the reply, one has to look a separate census schedule for Bibb County slave homeowners.

H. A. Smith owned 9 slaves, males, ladies, and kids, between the ages of 47 and a pair of—none of whom are listed by names. Undoubtedly, the statistics represented a household who may have been purchased and offered at will. Although all of us realized about slavery in our previous American historical past courses, it turns into extra actual when it hits this near house — slave homeowners with ties to Pittsford, my house city.

Hannah (Hitchcock) Smith died in Columbiana, Alabama, on 4 February 1898, age 82. The Shelby Sentinel of Calera, Alabama, revealed an obituary beneath the headline of “Demise of a Mom in Israel,” with these phrases: ”The loss of life angel claimed as his personal Mrs. Hannah Smith, the venerable relict of the late Rev. H. A. Smith of the Presbyterian Church… A noble Christian lady, she has fought a superb combat, completed her course, and gone to her reward, leaving an instance properly worthy of imitation.” The Pittsford Congregational Church wouldn’t have agreed.