Monday, October 27, 2008

"Railroad Bill" part 1

note: violence and racism in the below 1896 newspaper clipping. Readers cautioned.

Seeing a mention of Railroad Bill on ill WS.'s website, reminded me that I wanted to look into the truth of Railroad Bill - and find out if Leonard McGowin - who was (as the story goes) the one to have shot him, was indeed one of the members of the Universalist McGowin's from that area.
The problem is that I cant find any Leonard McGowin in Alabama during this time period...
so this means - having to go back to the 1890s newspapers - note how this Atlanta story implies the credit (or blame - Railroad Bill was sorta of modern day Robin Hood character - except he didnt share the money with the neighbors) goes to the entire posse, as does a story later that week. Apparently attmepts to display the body for public courisity was mainly unsucessful - due to the rejection of law enforcement to this idea.
there are links to the legend off the first video clip.

Atlanta Constitution 1896 March 8


Was A Walking Arsenel, but Did Not Get Into Action Quick Enough.

Mobile, Ala, March 7 - Morris Slater, alias Railroad Bill, a noted negro despardo who has terrorized Esacambia and adjoining counties along the Louisville and Nashville railroad for a year or more past, was shot and instantly killed tonight about 9 O'Clock at Atmore, a small station on the Louiville and Nashville by a posse who had been on the outlook for him all day long.
He was killed in the store of Tidmore & Ward. The posse was taken somewhat unawares when he entered, but instantly they recognized him and opened fire on him with double-barreled guns. He was litteraly perforated with shot and was instantly killed.
He had a Winchester rifle in the leg of his pantaloons and two pistols in his belt, which was full of catradages. Several nights ago, the residence of the telegraph operator at Atemore was robbed and a negro, Will Payne, who was accused of the robbery, said that Railroad Bill forced him at the point of a pistol to stand guard while Bill went him and robbed the house, after which he took to the woods. The negro stook to his story so earnestly that some of the white citizens believed him and the posse was organized which killed the despardo tonight.
Railroad Bill had been pursued for the past year at intervals, but has always managed to elude his captors. During that time he has killed a man named J.H. Stewart, near Hurricane Bayou, who was a member of a posse which was after him, and he also shot and killed Sheriff McMillan of Escambia county at Bluff Springs, not very long ago. Of late, there has not been much heard of his whereabouts, and at one time he was reported to have sailed from Savannah to Africia. there were rewards amounting to $1,350 for his capture.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A look at UUA thinking in 1966

Everything We Know about UUA history is wrong - or at least somethings that I thought I knew about UUA history is wrong. At least that is what I am thinking after reading the 1973 book RELIGION AMONG THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS: CONVERTS IN THEIR STEPFATHERS' HOUSE (Robert B. Tapp). This book was based on surveys and studies done in 1966 - and is an interesting snapshot of the UUA just before the late 1960s meltdown.
the Peak year for the UUA was 1968 with a membership of 282, 000 - the current membership (2008) is 155,000, but the decline was in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977 membership was 145, 000. This loss of half the membership in nine years explains a lot about what happened to the denomination during that time frame (and what happened to the denomination also explains what happened to the membership).

Okay. lets look at some of the 1966 views
30% said that "God" was irrelevant or harmful
44% said "God" was a name for some natural process in the universe (such as love)
26% said that "God" was real

12% said they prayed frequently
52% said they prayed occasionally or seldom
36% said they never prayed
(34% had said they found the term prayer non-useful)

43% said they were Christian - 57% said they weren't
70 % said religious education was very important to what a church's emphasis should be.9the topic percentage)
The most important skills for a minister were Dealings With People 84% and Preaching 74%, Religious Education 59%, counseling 58% and Social Action 45%

11% wanted the UUA to be more Christian in ten years
37% wanted the UUA to be a more universal religion in ten years
52% wanted the UUA to be a more humanistic religion in ten years

12% were born UUs

18% voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964 (39% of the vote was the National USA percentage)

the 12% who were born UUs is roughly the same for what it is now ---
Too bad there's no survey to show us what UUs were believing in would be interesint to see who left - the usual thinking was the left and the right left, leaving just the middle .....but we dont really know.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the "First" Universalist Church

In my next post (already half written) I talk about what some on the internet call the "First" Universalist Church in the United States. And yes, since this is a southern history blog, it is of course here in the South. But I thought I would need to go ahead and talk first about "first' and why it's so hard to pinpoint what we mean by that.

For the first Universalist Church, do we mean the First Church to have Universalism as an important cornerstone of the doctrine? Do we mean the First Church to call itself Universalist? Or do we mean the first Imortant Church to call itself Universalist, or do we mean the first Church to call itself Universalist that joined the Universalist General Convention?

As far as I know the first Church that called itself sorta by that name was "The Society of Universal Baptists" in Philadphia in 1784. It suspossibly became the "first Independent Church of Church, Commonaly known as Universalists" in 1790. John Murray's Church was 1779, but was not titled an Universalist Church. Can anyone add or change, confirm, etc what was the first church with the name Universalist?

As for the doctrine - it's fairly well known that there were many Universalist preachers at the same time as Murray - up and down the coast - the whole setting of the Murray Miracle story was that he was put ashore at a church which was waiting for an Universalist minister.
The Conneticut River valley was full of Universalist Churches that were either informal enough or didnt care about reporting to the Goverment that we don't know much about them. If you didnt leave written reocrds - then 200 years later, you're not remembered. This is the same problem we have in the Middle Atlantic states, where we know that universalist met - but they either didnt keep records - or, in a few cases, they wrote them in German - and are as yet untranslated. The same is true in the south, almost no records exist - and we base some of our knowledge on what other non-sympathetic folks said in their records.

it's fairly safe to say that the Murray Church is the oldest surviving Universalist Church in the United States. Its over 200 years do count for something, and it was universalist in theology from the start and stayed universalist. As for the finner points of "First". that's up to hairsplitters of all kinds and internet bloggers

Fredonia -'"the first Universalist Church"

I gave a sermon once starting "The Universalist Church started here in the Carolinas. I know that's true because I read it on the internet - and if you can't believe Wikipedia, who can you believe?"

Yes, Wikipedia and other sources state that the first Universalist Church in South Carolina and perhaps the whole United States of America was at Freedonia Meeting Hall in Newberry County, South Carolina. Tellingly, they don't say when or where the Church was.

I bring this up because James asked me this question last week, I had to admit that no one knows where it was - and that I was doubtful of the "first" designation. He asked another local expert who suggested it might be Liberty Church (in Feasterville); and I went ahead asked a Newberry County historian who had never heard of it (I should state that the historian was in the middle of a picnic and miles away from any Newberry reference books).

See my earlier post on the actual pointlessness of putting the name first to "something in the air"
but I hope to use this area (and later the comments) to put some documentations on Fredonia.

In Clayton's book, he mentions that in 1845 he was to alternate preaching monthly between two Churches in Newberry County, Hartford and Fredonia.

An obit of Rev. Elijah Linch mentions that he last preached at the Fredonia Meeting House in June of 1842.

this page
lists Fredonia as appearing in a genealogy book:
Newberry City Equity 1868-1869, and Washington Equity Records 1816-1843.
I have not however seen this book.

as time goes by, we will add whatever else we find on Fredonia here on this page.
Please add what you know in the comments section.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Trademarks - modern

I note that there are trademarks on:

World A Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Unitarian Universalist

and that the UUA attempted to trademark the words Unitarian and Universalist last October (2007) and gave up in the spring. You really cant trademark frequently used words.
I note however that a cosmetic company is trying to trademark "universalist" as a brand of cosmetics.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

July and October 1924

Universalist Leader August 30, 1924

a letter from Ruby C. Paris of Alpharetta, Georgia and member of the Liberal Christian Church in Atlanta. talks about her experince as a disabled person. She regrets that she was unable to go to school - as she thinks that learing to read and write at an early age would have helped her become independent. A reminder of how things have indeed changed for the better.

Texas Universalist Convention July 11-13, 1924.
Held at the new Universalist Church in Ponta. Texas. President was Judge J. D. Barker of Cisco.
Assistant Secretary was W.A. Prather of Welasco. There was an afro-american congregaion near Ponta, that apparently had been meeting for over ten years (hard to tell by the article when it was founded by Ben Grey and Charles White, the layleaders of the congregation).

Universalist Leader October 25, 1924
This issue prints the sermon "Are We Needed?" given by George A. Gay at the Georgia Universalist Convention. Rev Gay was the current preacher in Chattanooga.
the North Carolina Universalist convention was held September 25-28, and the article written by J. R. Miller. Mr Miller was from Florence NC, a small town east of New Bern.
Mary Slaughter of the General Sunday School Association was visiting in her home church of Camp Hill in August. She also attended a service in Friendship and Brewton Alabama. From there to Pensacola, Florida. Then to Atlanta (and the Georgia convention) and Canon Georgia, followed by the NC convention, then up to Washington and the north.
Rev. H.T. Crumpton was the regular preacher of Ariton, Brewton and Chapman. Chapman, a lumber town is now a regular organized church. Chapman will be hosting the Alabama Convention.
The New York Convention has given to Rev. Edgar L. Halfacre a letter of transfer to South Carolina.

Rev. Francis Britton Bishop of Montgomery Alabama was southern superintendent
Rev Thomas W. Murray of Hopkinsville was Kentucky superintendent
Rev A. G. Strain of Atlanta, Ga was Mississippi superintendent
Rev. R. L. Brooks of Elgin, was Texas supeintendent.