Thursday, August 31, 2017

Alexander Devin: Pioneer Preacher, Master Builder of Baptist Churches in South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana

William Devin was born in Dublin, Ireland and came to America around 1745. He and his wife, Sarah, settled along Banister River in what is now Pittsylvania County, Virginia, near present-day Danville and Martinsville. Their son, Alexander, my 6th great-grandfather in my grandmother Dimple Means Speck's line, was born there on March 22, 1769.

Alexander was a Baptist preacher who was raised in South Carolina, preaching the gospel up and down the Pee Dee River (the original river in Stephen Foster's song, "Old Folks at Home.") It is written that he was a strong doctrinal preacher, a man of fine talents who exerted a strong influence on society. The "History of the South Carolina Baptist," by Leath Townsend, states that Devin helped John Hightower and Joseph Logan organize several churches there in the early to mid 1790's before migrating west to Kentucky in 1798.

According to J. H. Spencer's "History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1," The Kentucky Legislature had passed an act in 1795, by which a preemption right to two hundred acres of land was secured to each settler in the Green River country. This induced a large influx of immigrants from the southeast to settle in that region. Most of the early settlers along the southern border of the State were from the Carolinas. A settlement by people from these states was made on the waters of Drake's Creek, in what are now Allen and Warren counties, as early as 1795. Among these, according to Spencer, were "a number of Baptists, including Hightower, Devin and Logan."

They organized Union Church near the West Fork of Drake's Creek in Warren County. Today, Old Union Missionary Baptist Church is considered to be the oldest, continuous congregation in Warren County, having been constituted in 1795.

Sulphur Springs Church was founded by the three preachers around 1797 or 1798. It was the first church of any denomination in Allen County.

They constituted Bethlehem Church (originally called Upper Difficult Church) in 1801. Logan was the first pastor, Hightower the second and Devin the third. Today, it is the oldest existing church in Allen County. These three ministers worked both together and separately throughout the region. There is a record of Devin and Hightower dedicating The Baptist Church of Jesus Christ in Smith County, Tennessee in 1802.

In his book, Spencer referred to Hightower, Logan and Devin as “the master builders” of Baptist churches who often taking turns serving the pulpit in churches they helped constitute.

(Alexander Devin House, 412 West State Street, Princeton, Indiana) )

Devin moved his family to the Indiana Territory in the spring of 1808. He was one of the first Baptist preachers in Southwestern Indiana. He bought the first lot sold in Princeton. Alexander and his son, Joseph, operated a pork packing and shipping business. They had large packing houses and ran an extensive business for many years, loading pork in flatboats and sending them down the river to New Orleans.

Alexander was one of three Gibson County, Indiana men who were delegates to the Indiana Constitutional Convention in 1816. The other two were David Robb and James Smith. In all, forty-three delegates from 13 counties across the southern part of the state met in Corydon (the original state capital) to vote whether or not Indiana should be declared a state. The vote passed 34-8 and Indiana became the 19th state on December 11th of that year. During Indiana's bicentennial celebration in 2016, all 43 delegates were honored. Devin’s stone at Warnock Cemetery was re-set before the ceremony took place.

After moving to the Indiana territory, Devin continued organizing churches. He collected the first churches of the Wabash Association, which was formed from five churches in 1809. He also organized Providence Church in 1822 and Harvey's Creek Church in 1823.

Alexander and his wife, Susan Nowlin, whom he married in 1793, had thirteen children. Alexander died on January 3, 1827 and is buried at Warnock Cemetery in Gibson County, along with his wife and most of their children.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Victor: The Sousa Sessions

Victor Talking Machine Company
"Sessions with the Sousa Band"
Dec. 21, 1917
from my 78 rpm collection"

These recordings of the Sousa Band are among the very few on which Sousa himself is known to have conducted. The recording sessions took place at the Camden, NJ Auditorim. Two takes were recorded of each song and only the second take of each song was released.

"The United States Field Artillery March"
(Written by Sousa)
Matrix #: B21227710, 78 rpm
released as Victor 18430 (A)
Listen Here

"Liberty Loan"
(Written by Sousa)
Matrix #: B2127510, 78 rpm
released as: Victor 18430 (B)
Listen Here

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017: The Glory of God

The ancient Chinese believed an eclipse was a fire-eating dragon that swallowed the sun. Medieval European Viking sailors attributed the celestial event to sky wandering wolves catching up with the burning orb.

We know that the sun is a dependable friend that gives light and life. Likewise, the one who made the sun is also a dependable friend who gives light and life. Today's eclipse is a reminder that "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork," which is to say the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalms 19:1).

In his online article published on August 20, 2017 entitled, "Are Solar Eclipses Proof of God?", Eric Metaxas of Fox News writes, "the man who wrote (Psalms 19:1) didn’t have a telescope or a Brittanica, but he saw something many today still do not see. He saw a God behind it all. It may be true that seeing a Grand Designer behind these breath-taking events requires what we call a leap of faith; but it may also be true that seeing mere coincidence behind them requires an even greater leap of faith. In my mind, much greater. Today, you may be the judge."

Seeing that the sun is a dependable friend that gives light and life, an eclipse could be viewed as a disruption of the natural order, but the eclipse will eventually end and God will continue to reign!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Arthur Robinson Frogge: Pioneer of the Valley of the Three Forks o' the Wolf

My 5th great-grandfather, Arthur Robinson Frogge, was born to William and Mary Mitchell Frogg on April 13, 1776, almost three months before the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress.

Arthur was of Scottish descent and was named after his uncle Arthur Frogg (c1744 – 1771) who was reportedly killed in a duel in Virginia. His middle name was in homage of his brother-in-law and business partner, David Robinson. According to his widow’s pension, Arthur Frogg was 6 ft. tall, slender, fair-completed, blue eyes and had black hair. President James Madison was Arthur's second cousin. Madison’s mother and Arthur’s grandmother were sisters.

In August of 1795, at the age of 19, Arthur enlisted as a private in the 14th Regiment of the Virginia Infantry. He served three years, taking part in several expeditions against the Creek Indians, before he was honorably discharged at Ft. Williams in Georgia in August of 1798.

Arthur married Jane Thompson Richardson on Jan. 31, 1799 in Wytheville, VA. The next month, his brother, Strother, married Jane’s sister. In 1802, after witnessing a mass exodus by many of their family and friends to Kentucky and Tennessee, the Frogg brothers moved their families to an area on Wolf River near Stockton's Valley, which later became known as Albany, Kentucky. The area where Arthur and his family settled was originally thought to be in Kentucky but would later become Pall Mall, Tennessee. It was there that Arthur purchased 200 acres near the Horsehoe Bend of Wolf River.

Sgt Alvin C. York wrote in is diary, “Above the spring in the rock-facing of the cliff is a large cave. Here Coonrod Pile spread a bed of leaves and made his home. The campfire was kept burning and its smoke was seen by other hunters, and Pearson Miller, Arthur Frogg, John Riley and Moses Poor came to Coonrod in the valley, and they too made their homes there, and Pall Mall was founded and descendants of these men are today eighty percent of the residents in the "Valley of the Three Forks o' the Wolf.”

The United States declared War on England in June of 1812 and Arthur and his brothers, William and Strother, enlisted to protect the frontier settlements from Tecumseh. Due to his previous experience as a soldier, Arthur served as a Lieutenant in the KY Mounted Infantry, 3rd Company; 7th Regiment for the Thames Campaign. He was mustered in at Newport, KY, enroute to Urbana, Ohio, 120 miles north of Cincinnati.

On Nov. 4, 1813, while marching around Lake Erie, Arthur fractured his ankle. He had served 84 days as Lieutenant. His paymaster reimbursed him two rations per day totaling 168, less ten of which were provided. He was reimbursed $31.60 sustenance during his term.

After the injury, Arthur came back home, where it is said he presided over the first ever county court. He also became road commissioner of Overton County, TN in 1815.

Tennessee and Kentucky compromised on a boundary dispute and on Feb. 4, 1820, the land where Arthur lived was now referred to as Overton County, TN instead of Cumberland County, KY. Fentress County, TN was created three years later from parts of Overton and Morgan counties, but Arthur remained in Overton County as the area along Wolf River would not be annexed into Fentress County until later.

In 1832, Arthur became Fentress County Road Commissioner and in 1835, he was appointed commissioner of Tennessee’s first railroad.

After the opening of the Illinois Territory, Arthur and his sons purchased 5,000 acres of land in Union County, Illinois in 1839. According to his widow’s pension papers, Arthur moved his family to Tippecanoe, Indiana where Jane died on Aug. 17, 1839. Following her death, Arthur returned home to Pall Mall and on April 18, 1841 he married his second wife, Louvisa Smith.

He applied for his military pension in 1844 and after a two year review, began receiving $8.50 per month on Jan. 1, 1846.

Arthur Robinson Frogge died on May 13, 1855 at the age of 78. He is buried at Wolf River Cemetery in Fentress Co, Tennessee.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Hunt For Freedom

Two decades before Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, Polly Berry, an African-American woman who had been enslaved as a child in Wayne County, Kentucky, became a free woman, thanks to the help of two former residents of Stockton's Valley, who were also members of Clear Fork Baptist Church.

Polly Berry, aka Polly Crockett and Polly Wash, was an African-American woman who was reportedly born to a slave in a Beatty family in Wayne County, Kentucky around 1803, and who later became enslaved to a one-armed man named Joseph Crockett, the uncle of frontiersman, Davy Crockett, who migrated from Fredericks County, Virginia to Wayne County, where he operated a sawmill. In the winter of 1818, when Polly was 14 years old, Crockett sold his property and moved his family, including Polly, to Illinois, seemingly with the intent of moving on to Missouri when weather allowed.

Illinois was a “free state” meaning that if a slave owner moved there, he forfeited his legal rights to own his slaves, but Crockett ignored this fact. His decision to winter there, with wife, belongings and stock, would become key to Polly's hunt for freedom, along with the fact that he hired her out to neighbors in the free state before allowing his son, William, to take her to the slave-state Missouri months later and sell her.

At Missouri, Polly was sold to Major Taylor Berry of St. Louis and became Polly Berry. It was there that she married another slave and two daughters were born: Nancy and Lucy. When Major Berry died there was a provision in his will saying that after his wife, Fanny, died the slaves would be freed.

Fanny married Missouri State Supreme Court Justices Robert Wash and when she died a few years later, Wash not only did not free his wife’s slaves as he was supposed to, he also sold Polly’s husband to a plantation owner in the South. Soon after, though, Major Berry's daughter's were able to reclaim Polly and her daughters from Wash.

Polly Berry escaped in 1839 after being sold to lumberman Joseph Magehan, but she was captured in Chicago and returned to get new owner. It was then that she resolved to protect her now 12-year-old daughter, Lucy Ann. Her daughter, Nancy, had managed to escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad. (She went on to marry a prosperous farmer in Toronto, Canada and had several children).

Polly filed a freedom suit in the St. Louis Circuit Court on October 3, 1839, on the basis that, when younger, she had been illegally held as a slave in Illinois (Polly Wash v. Joseph M. Magehan). A Missouri state law in 1824 stated that persons held in wrongful servitude could sue for freedom if they had evidence of wrongful enslavement. Most of the persons using this law to obtain freedom were enslaved Africans who based their wrongful enslavement cases on residence in a free state or territory. Since their cases were all brought for the same reason, collectively, they became known as "freedom suits." The judicial practice was termed, "once free, always free."

In 1800, Samuel Wood, his wife, Naomi, his mother, Sarah, and most of his brothers, migrated from East Tennessee to Stockton's Valley, Kentucky, which later became Albany. Samuel and his brother, William, helped organize Clear Fork Baptist Church. William served as clerk until his death in 1850 and Samuel was the first appointed deacon, serving until 1816. A road builder by trade, in 1813, he oversaw the building of the (old) Burkesville Road from Robert Davis’ to the county line. After the War of 1812 and an 1815 peace treaty with Northwest Indian tribes, rumors were rife of the rich soil in the Illinois Territory, causing Samuel, Naomi and others, including Joseph Crockett, to move there. Samuel and Naomi chose to settle near the Mississippi River at Troy.

The Wood's had been acquainted with young Polly and Joseph Crockett while living at Stockton's Valley and both gave key depositions on her behalf in April of 1840. Samuel referred to Polly as "the young Negro girl." Naomi went much further, saying she had known Polly "almost ever since she was born" and "frequently saw Polly's mother carrying the child about" and that Crockett would hire her out "even though she was sometimes a little sick." Naomi also stated that "when Polly was seven or eight years of age or thereabouts, she was sold by her original owners, the Beatty's of Wayne County, Kentucky, to Joseph Crockett, a one-armed man." She said, "I know the plaintiff (Polly) well. I have not seen the plaintiff since she was here with Crockett until something like a fortnight ago when she came to my house. She said that she had come to hunt us and after talking some time about the Beatty's and Crockett's and other neighbors and things I asked Pol where she had been all this time and why she had come here. She said she had come to see if they could say how long she had stayed here and said she had an idea of endeavoring to get her freedom. I then stated to her that I recollected such facts as I have stated and I told her I was willing to testify to such facts as I know here as at St. Louis."

Berry successfully proved that she had been enslaved in the free state of Illinois before being sold to a slave trader in Missouri and on June 6, 1843 an all-white jury in St. Louis declared her a free woman. Five years later, on February 7, 1844, the same court declared freedom for her now 14-year-old daughter, Lucy Ann, because she was born to a woman who was proven in court to be free based on having been held illegally in Illinois.

You can read about Polly Berry's life in her daughter's memoir, "From the Darkness Cometh the Light," or "Struggles for Freedom," the only first-person account of a freedom suit, published in 1891 under her married name, Lucy Delaney.

It's not clear when Polly Berry died but after the court cases, she lived with Lucy Ann the rest of her days. Lucy Ann died sometime after 1891.

Samuel and Naomi Wood and others organized Canteen Creek Baptist Church in the Jarvis Township of Madison County, Illinois on June 21,1817 and Samuel was called to preach. He died on May 20, 1850. Naomi reportedly died two years later. They are buried at Canteen Creek Church Cemetery, also known as Wood Cemetery.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...