Independent TribuneColumns Church notes reveal all kinds of mischief

Church notes reveal all kinds of mischief

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Janet Morrison
Did you know?
If you want to know what kind of mischief people around here were getting into throughout most of the 1800s, read the Rocky River Presbyterian Churches’ Session Minutes.

The Rocky River Session (governing body in a Presbyterian church) disciplined members of the congregation. It has been said that Rocky River residents were never brought up on charges at the courthouse in Concord because Rocky River took care of its own problems.

The usual punishment, regardless of the sin, was the suspension of the offender’s privileges of church membership, i.e., taking communion and having one’s children baptized.

In 1837, a church member was accused of trying to sell adulterated gold. He tried to pass it off as gold from the Reed Mine but eventually admitted to the Session that he adulterated it with two pieces of jeweler’s gold to make it weigh more.

Several slaves were disciplined in the 1830s for lying. One slave sold the church’s pastor some cabbages he said his mother had given him. When Rev. Penick told the slave’s owner that he wished to buy more cabbages from the slave, he learned that the slave’s mother hadn’t grown any cabbage that year. 

From time-to-time, women were called before the Session for having children out of wedlock. You can try to find evidence in the minutes of the accused being asked to identify her baby’s father, but you won’t find a single instance.

A slave was called before the Session in 1841 for stealing a pair of pantaloons from another slave, lying about it, using profanity, and fighting the accusing slave. The same year, another slave was tried for stealing a pocket book from a fellow slave and lying about spending the money it contained.

Another member of the church was tried by the Session in 1842 for being “drunk, with using profane language, & with playing cards in or near the town of Charlotte.” Several men testified that they had camped with the accused for the last general muster and that he was guilty as charged.

In 1846, a slave was charged with stealing “a parcel of wheat”. At his trial, he testified that he took the wheat to the mill for another slave without knowing it was stolen.

A man was tried in 1848 for violently assaulting without provocation another man’s slave. 

The year 1854 brought a variety of cases. A slave was tried for running away and attempting to make his way to a free state. Another member was charged with putting inferior flour in several bags for market and family use. A slave was charged with threatening a neighboring white man, Joshua Harris, with a pistol. 

The following is a personal favorite of mine. In 1856, a slave named Milly was tried for “having forsaken her husband (he being and living in reach of her) & taken up with another man with whom she lives as a husband.” When asked why, the minute indicates that Milly “liked the latter better than she did the former.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Bibliography:
• Rocky River Presbyterian Church Session Minutes, 1835-1856, on microfilm at The Lore Local History Room of the Cabarrus County Public Library in Concord


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