The Journal of Reverand Charles Woodmason

Charles Woodmason

Excerpts

1766

16th  

Arrived at Pine Tree Hill and Centre of my district. This week employed in riding the environs and baptizings — 50 miles; 40 miles.

Sunday 21st  

Officiated in the Presbyterian Meeting House to about 200 hearers, chiefly Presbyterians. Offered to give sermon twice on every Sunday. Rejected.

Beside this Meeting House, there is another of Quakers with a large congregation. — But they have neither Pastor or Teacher of Speaker at either.

The people around, of abandoned morals, and profligate principles — Rude — Ignorant — Void of Manners, Education or good breeding — No genteel or polite person among them — save Mr. Kershaw an English merchant settled here. The people are of all sects and denominations — a mixed medley from all countries and the off scouring of America. Baptized 20 children this week and rode about 40 miles — miles brought over 220.

 September 28  

Officiated in the meeting house — promoted a petition to the General Assembly to have a chapel built, which every one of ever class and Sect. signed. About 150 persons present at service.

Received Great Civilities from Mr. Samuel Wyly, an eminent Quaker in the neighborhood — who kindly rode about with me to make me known to the people.

Not a house to be hired — nor even a single room on all this river to be rented, fit to put my head or goods in — the people all new settlers, extremely poor — live in log cabins like hogs and their living and behavior as rude or more so than the Savages. Extremely embarrassed how to subsist. Took up my quarters in a tavern and exposed to the rudeness of the mob. People continually drunk.

The country being very sickly, Mr. Kershaw would not permit me to move abroad much as this week. Married a couple for the first time, woman very big. — 20 miles

My English servant man whom I brought over, taken with the fever. Excessive hot weather for the season.

 Sunday, January 25th 1767
A congregation at the Cheraws of above 500 people. Baptized about 60 children — quite jaded out — standing and speaking six hours together and nothing to refresh me, but water — and their provisions I could not touch — all the cookery of these people being exceeding filthy, and most execrable.

Next day, I returned and preached the 27th in my way back at Lynch’s Creek to a great multitude of people assembled together, being the 1st Episcopal Minister they had seen since their being in the province. They complained of being eaten up by Itinerant teachers, preachers and imposters from New England and Pennsylvania — Baptists, New Lights, Presbyterians, Independents, and a hundred other sects. So that one day you might here this system of doctrine — the next day another, next day another, retrograde to both. Thus by the variety of tailors who would pretend to know the best fashion in which Christ’s coat is to be worn none will put it on. And among the various plans of religion, they are at loss which to adapt, and consequently are without any religion at all. They came to sermon with itching ears only, not with any disposition of heart, or sentiment of mind. Assemble out of curiosity, not devotion, and seem so pleased with their native ignorance, as to be offended at any attempts to rouse them out of it. — 40 miles

I was almost tired in baptizing of children — and laid myself down for the night frozen with the cold without the least refreshment, no eggs, butter, flour, milk, or anything, but fat rusty bacon, and fair water, with Indian corn bread, viands I had never before seen or tasted. — 1340 total miles

I set off next day for Pine Tree, glad to once more under the roof of the good Samaritan, Mr. Kershaw, who poured wine and oil into my wounds, and would have prevented my moving from him for a space: but I was obliged to travel upwards — having engaged myself for next Sunday at the settlement of Irish Presbyterians called the Waxaws, among whom were several church people. — 40 miles

This is a very fruitful fine spot, through which the dividing line between North and South Carolina runs — The heads of P.D. River, Lynch’s Creek, and many other creeks take their rise in this quarter, so that finer body of land is no where to be seen, but it is occupied by a set of the most lowest vilest crew breathing Scotch Irish Presbyterians from the North of Ireland — They have built a meeting house and have a pastor a Scots man among them — A good sort of man — He once was of the Church of England, and solicited for orders, but was refused — whereon he went to Pennsylvania, and got ordained by the Presbytery there, who allow him a stipend to preach to these people, who (in his breast) he heartily contemns — They will no suffer him to use the Lord’s Prayer. He wants to introduce Watts’ Psalms in place of the barbarous Scotch version — but they will not admit it — His congregation is very large — This tract of land being most surprisingly thick settled beyond any spot in England of its extent — Seldom less than 9, 10, 1200 people assemble of a Sunday — They never heard an Episcopal minister, or the common prayer, and were very curious — The Church people among them are thinly scattered but they had a numerous Progeny for Baptism — rather choosing they should grow up to maturity without baptism than they should receive it by the hands of sectaries — So in compliance with their request to visit them, I appointed Sunday the 31st to go up to them — and the Presbyterian Minister was to come down to this meeting house in my absence. — 1380 total miles.

Could all these congregations be regularly attended every Sunday, the number set against each (say treble the number) would attend. But it would employ 20 ministers. The figures set before the letters express the number of miles each place is distant from my center.

These congregations being settled — their children baptized, and the people roused from their insensibility. A new system of things, and an entire alteration in the minds of individuals seemed to take place from this period.

I will wave all political matters (leaving it to another paper — which I have mentioned) and proceed in my journal just to set down facts, and occurrences respecting myself and the state of religion in this country.

The fatigue and pain — the toil and expense I have sustained in these peregrinations are beyond description. Few beside me could have born them. The task deterred every one — none to bed found to enter on it.

But the people wearied out with being exposed to the depredations of robbers — Set down here just as a barrier between the rich planters and the Indians, to secure the former against the latter. Without laws or government churches schools or ministers — no police established — and all property quite insecure — merchants as fearful to venture their goods as ministers their persons — The lands, though the finest in the province unoccupied, and rich men afraid to set slaves to work to clear them, lest they should become a pretty to the Banditti — No regard had to the numberless petitions and complaints of the people. Thus neglected and slighted by those in authority, they rose in Armspursed the Rogues, broke up their gangs — burnt the dwellings of all their harbourers and abettors — whipped and drove the idle, vicious, and profligate out of the province, men and women without distinction and would have proceeded to Charlestown in a regular corps of 5000 men, and hung up the Rogues before the State House in presence of Governor and Council.

For the mildness of legislation here is so great and the clemency of the chief in authority has been carried to such excess that when a notorious robber was with great pains catched and sent to town and there tried and condemned he always go pardoned by dint of money, and came back 50 times worse than before. The fellows thus pardoned formed themselves into a large gang, ranging the province with impunity.

It was with great pains that I prevailed with the multitude to lay aside desperate resolutions. I wrote to all in authority — and received for answer, that if they would apply in a Constitutional Way, their grievances should be redressed.

I drew up for them a remonstrance, which was presented to the house. Many articles of a civil nature were granted. But those of a religious remain as they were — save the raising of a large district big enough for 6 parishes into one parish, because they want not to increase the number of members of Assembly. But the regulators (so the populace call themselves) will not long be passive — If the next sessions do not relive them, the are determined to surround the metropolis

I now proceed in my journal for the second year. (but forgot to note that on the 20th November) I was at Beaver Creek where gave sermon to a body of about 2000 armed persons of the populace called regulators — and it was happiness for many that I went there as I saved many homes from being burnt and stopped the outrages of the mob — no lives were lost nor blood spit.

’Tis these roving teachers that stir up the minds of the people against the established church, and her ministers and make the situation of any gentleman extremely uneasy, vexatious, and disagreeable. I would sooner starve in England on a curacy of 20 pounds, than to live here on 200 Guineas, did not the interests of religion and the church absolutely require it — Some few of these itinerants have encountered me, I find them a set of Rhapsodists, Enthusiasts, Bigots, Pedantic, illiterate, impudent hypocrites, Straining at gnats, and swallowing camels, and making religion a cloak for covetousness detraction, guile, impostures and their particular fabric of things.

Among these Quakers and Presbyterians, are many concealed papists — They are not tolerated in this government — and in the shape of New Light Preachers, I’ve met with many Jesuits. We have to hear a Society of Dunkards — these resort to hear me when I am over at Jackson’s Creek.

Among this medley of religions — True genuine Christianity is not to be found. And the perverse persecuting Spirit of the Presbyterians, displays it self much more here than in Scotland. It is dangerous to live among, or near any of them — for if they cannot cheat, rob, defraud or injure you in your goods — they will belye, defame, lessen, blacken, disparage the most valuable person breathing, not of their communion in his character, good name, or reputation and credit, They have almost wormed out all the church people who cannot bear to live among such a Sett of Vile unaccountable Wretches.

These sects are eternally jarring among themselves — The Presbyterians hate the Baptists far more than they do the Episcopalians, and so of the rest. But (as in England) they will unite altogether in a body to distress or injure the church established.

Hence it is, that when any bills have been presented to the legislature to promote the interests of religion, these sectaries have found means to have them overruled, for the leading men of the house being all lawyers, those people know how to grease wheels to make them turn.

If numbers were to be counted here, the church people would have the majority — but in point of interest, I judge that the dissenters possess more money — and thereby they can give a bias to things at pleasure.

The Grand Juries have presented as a grievance, the shame and damage arising from such itinerant teachers being suffered to ramble about. They have even married people under my eye in defiance of all laws and regulations, and I can get no redress — I do all the duty — take all the pains. If there is a shilling to be got by a wedding or funeral, these impudent fellows will endeavor to pocket it: and are the most audacious of any Sett of Mortals I ever met with. They beat and Medicinal Mountebank.

Not long after, they hired a band of rude fellows to come to service who brought with them 57 dogs (for I counted them) which in time of service they set fighting, and I was obliged to stop — in time of sermon they repeated it — and I was obliged to desist and dismiss the people. It is in vain to take up or commit these lawless ruffians for they have nothing, and the charge of sending of them to Charlestown, would take me a years salary — We are without any law or order and as all the Magistrates are Presbyterians, I could not get a warrant, If I got warrants as the constables are Presbyterians likewise, I could not get them served, if served, the guard would let them escape — Both my self and other Episcopals have made this experiment. They have granted me Writs through fear of being complained off, but took care not to have them served. I took up one fellow for a riot at a wedding, and creating disturbance. The people took up two others for entering the house where I was when in bed stealing my gown, putting it on, and then visiting a woman in bed, and getting to bed with her. This was a scheme laid by the Baptists — and man and woman prepared for the purpose. The people likewise took up some others for calling of me Jesuit, and railing against the service. The Constable let them all loose. No bringing of them to justice — I entered informations against some magistrates for marrying — but cannot get them out of the other justices hands till too late to send to town for a judges warrant.

Another time (in order to disappoint me of a congregation and to laugh at the people) they posted a paper, signifying, that the King having discovered the popish designs of Mr. Woodmason and other Romish Priests in disguise, to bring in popery and slavery, had sent over orders to suspend them all, and to order them to be sent over to England, so that there would be no more preaching for the future. This was believed by some of the poor ignorants, and kept them at home.

In this circuit of a fortnight I’ve eaten meant but thrice, and drank not but water — subsisting on my bisket and rice water and musk melons, cucumbers, green apples, and peaches and such trash. By which am reduced very thin. It is impossible that any gentleman not seasoned to the clime, could sustain this — It would kill 99 out of 100 — Nor is this a country, or place where I wish any gentleman to travel, or settle, although religion and the state requires a number of ministers. Their ignorance and impudence is so very high, as to be past bearing. Very few can read, fewer can write, out of 5000 that have attended sermon this last month, I have not got 50 to sign a petition to the assembly. They are very poor — owing their extreme indolence for they possess the finest country in America, and could raise but everything. They delight in their present low, lazy, sluttish, heathenish, hellish life, and seem not desirous of changing it. Both men and women will do anything to come at liquor, cloths, furniture rather than work for it. Hence their many vices — their gross licentiousness wantonness, lasciviousness, rudeness, lewdness, and profligacy they will commit the grossest enormities, before my face, and laugh at all admonition.

Last Sunday I distributed the last parcel of Mr. Warings tracts on prayer. It is very few families whom I can bring to join in prayer, because most of them are of various opinions the husband a churchman, wife, a dissenter, children nothing at all. My bibles and common prayers have been long gone, and I have given away to amount of 20 pounds of practical books, besides those I received of the society. Few or no books are to be found in all this cast country, beside the assembly, catechism, Watts hymns, Bunyan’s Pilgrims — Russells — Whitefields and Erskines sermons. Nor do they delight in historical books or in having them read to them, as do our vulgar in England for these people despise knowledge, and instead of honoring a learned person, or any one of with or knowledge be it in the arts, sciences, or languages they despise and I’ll treat them — and this spirit prevails even among the principles of this province. — total miles 2510

Now will come on their season of festivity and drunkenness — the stills will be soon at work for to make whisky and peach brandy. In this article, both Presbyterians and Episcopals very charitably agree that of getting drunk.

 Saturday August 6th

Set off to Beaver Creek — Overtaken by heavy thunder storm, and wet to the skin. Obliged to stay at White Oak Creek, at a cabin, for to dry myself and clothes.

This was a lucky circumstance for a poor woman just by, who was in labor, and could get but two women, and no midwife to attend her. By my care and skill she was happily delivered, and I had innumerable blessings bestowed on me. — 25 miles

Sunday 7th

pursued my journey, conducted by several persons. Had a very numerous congregation — Deputies came from the places above offering to build me a house and chapel if I would come and reside with them. To which could give no answer, till their request was laid before the Governor and council. However I promised to visit, and give them a sermon. — 10 miles

About 10 miles from this creek, on East and West side of the Wateree River, live a number of Seventh Day Baptists. I read the laws in force for due observance of the Lord’s Day and sent to them to forbear working, planting, riding carting and other avocations and not to give offense to their Christian Brethren by such illegal practices or I should carry the laws into execution. In return for my admonititions, they sent a message that if I offered to come into their parts for preach they would give me corporal punishment. To such heights of insolence are these sectaries grown. — total miles 2535

The congregation desired my permission to take them up and commit them to prison, but I would not suffer it.

Tree where I came on Tuesday very weak and very weary — the weather being very hot and dry, and having had no sleep for some nights, my skin being full of seed ticks. — 30 miles

Employed this week in answering the Governor’s letters – writing to the council – Board of Church Commissioners and in filling up petitions from the peoples.

The seditious multitude refuse to embrace the Governor’s proclamation.

Saturday September 3

Rode down the country on the West Side the Wateree River into the fork between that and the Congaree River– This is out of my bounds. But their having no minister, and their having no minister, and their falling (therefrom) continually from the Church of Anabaptism, inclined me to it. The people received me gladly and very kindly. Had on Sunday 4 — a company of about 150– Most of them of the low class — the principal planters living on the margin of these rivers.

Baptized negro man — 2 negro children — and 9 white infants and married 1 couple. The people thanked me in the most kind manner for my services. I had very pleasant riding but my horse suffered greatly. The mornings and evenings now begin to be somewhat cool, but the midday heat is almost intolerable. Many of these people walk 10 or 12 miles with their children in the burning sun. Ought such to be without the word of God, when so earnest, so desirous of hearing it and becoming good Christians, and good subjects! How lamentable to think, that the legislature of this province will make no provision — so rich, so luxurious, polite a people! Yet they are deaf to all solicitations, and look on poor white people in a meaner light than their black slaves, and care less for them. Withal there is such a Republican spirit still left, so much of the Old Leaven of Lord Shaftsbury and other the 1st principal settlers still remains, that Church of England. Hence it is that above 30,000 pounds sterling have lately been expended to bring over 5 or 6000 ignorant, mean, worthless, beggarly Irish Presbyterians, the scum of the Earth, and refuse of mankind, and this solely to balance the emigrations of people from Virginia, who are all of the established church. — 50 miles; total miles 2846

It will require much time and pains in new model and form the carriage and manners, as well as morals of these wild peoples — Among this congregation not on had a Bible or common prayer — or could join a person or hardly repeat the Creed or Lord’s Prayer. Yet all of them had been educated in the principles of our Church. So that I am obliged to read the whole service, omitting such parts, as are repetitious, and retaining those that will make the different services somewhat uniform — Hence it is, that I can but seldom use the litany, because they know not the responses.

It would be (as I once observed before) a great novelty to a Londoner to see one of these congregations. The men with only a thin shirt and pair of breeches or trousers on — barelegged and barefooted, the women bareheaded barelegged and barefoot with only a thin shift and under petticoat. Yet I cannot break them of this — for the heat of the weather admits not of any but think clothing — I can hardly bear the weight of my whig and gown, during service. The young women have a most uncommon practice, which I cannot break them off. They draw their shift as tight as possible to the body, and pin it close, to shew the roundness of their breasts, and slender waists (for they are generally finely shaped) and draw their petticoat close to their hips to shew the fineness of their limbs so that they might as well be in puri naturalibus. Indeed nakedness is not censurable or indecent here, and they expose themselves and their hair with bears oil and tying it up behind in a bunch like the Indians — being hardly one degree removed from them. In a few years, I hope to bring about a reformation, as I already have done in several parts of the country. — 284 miles

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