AN ACCOUNT OF LIFE OF Mr. David George from S. L. A. given by himself.
In a conversation with Brother Rippon of London and Brother Pearce in Birmingham.
I was born in Essex County Virginia, about fifty (50), or sixty(6O) miles from Williamsburg, on Nottaway River, of parents who were brought from Africa, but who had not the fear of God before their eyes. The first work I did was fetching water and carding of cotton, afterwards I was sent into the field to work about the Indian corn and tobacco till I was about nineteen (19) years old. My fathers name was John and my mothers name Judith. I had four (4) brothers and four (4) ,sisters, who, with myself were all born in slavery. Our master's name was Chapel - a very bad man to the Negroes. My older sister was called Patty; I have seen her several times so whipped that her back has been all corruption, as though It would rot. My brother Dick ran away but they caught him, and brought him home, and as they were going to tie him up, he broke away again, and they hunted him with horses and dogs, till they took him, and they hung him up to a cherry tree in the yard, by his two hands, quite naked, except his breeches, with his feet about half a yard from the ground. They tied his legs close together, and put a pole between them, at one end of which one of the owners sons sat to keep him down, and another son at the other. After he had received five hundred (500) lashes or more, they washed his back with salt water, and, whipped it in, as well as rubbed it in with a rag and then directly set him to work in pulling off the suckers of tobacco. I also have been whipped many a time on my naked skin, and sometimes till the blood has run down over my waistband, but the greatest grief I then had was to see them whip my mother, and to hear her on her knees, begging for mercy. She was masters cook, and if they only thought she might do anything better than she did, instead of speaking to her as to a servant, they would strip her directly and cut away. I believe she was on her death-bed when I got off, but I have never heard since. Master's rough and cruel usage was the reason for my running away. Before this time I used to drink, but did not steal, did not fear hell, was without knowledge, though I sometimes went to Nottaway, the English Church about eight (8) or nine (9) miles off. I left the plantation about midnight, walked all night, got into Brunswick County, then over Roanoke River, and soon met with some white travelling people, who helped me on to Pedee River. When I had been at work there two or three weeks, A hue and cry found me out, and the master said to me, there are thirty (30) guineas offered for you, but I will have no hand in it. I would advise you to make your way toward Savannah River. I hearkened to him, but was several weeks going.
I worked there I suppose as long as two years, with John Green, a white man, before they came after me again, then I ran away up among the Creek Indians. As I travelled from Savannah River, I came to Okemulgee River, near which the Indians perceived my track, they can tell the black peoples track from their own, because they are hollowed In the midst of their feet, and the Blacks feet are flatter than theirs. They followed my track down to the River, where I was making a log raft to cross over with. One of these Indians was a King, called Blue Salt; he could talk a little broken English. He took, and carried me away seventeen (17) or eighteen (18) miles into the woods to his camp where they had bear meat, turkeys and wild potatoes. I was his prize and lived with him from the Christmas month till April, when he went into his town, Augusta, in the Creek nation. I made fences, dug the ground, planted corn, and worked hard, but the people were kind to me.
From Virginia, S. C. , my master's son came there for me, I suppose eight hundred miles, and paid King Blue Salt for me in rum, linen, and a gun, but before he could take me out of the Creek nation, I escaped and went to the Natchee Indians, and got to live with their King, Jack, who employed me for a few weeks. S.C. was waiting this while in hopes to have me. Mr. Gaulfin, who lived on Savannah River; at Silver Bluff, and who was afterward my master, traded in these parts among the Indians in deer skins. He had a manager there whose name was John Miller. Mr. Miller knew King Jack, who have me into the hands of John Miller. Now I mended deer skins, and kept their horses together, that they might not wander too far off and be lost. I used also once a year to go down with the horses carrying, deerskins to Mr. Gaulfin at Silver Bluff, the distance, I think was four hundred (400) miles, over five or six rivers, which we crossed in leather boats. After three (3) years, when I came down, I told Mr. Gaulfin that I wished to live with him at Silver Bluff. He told me I should so he took me to wait upon him and was very kind to me. I was with him about four years I think, before I married. Here I lived a bad life and had no serious thoughts about my soul, but after my wife was delivered of our first child a man of my own colour, named Cyrus, who came from Charleston, S.C. to Silver Bluff, told me one day in the woods, that if I lived so I should never see the face of God in Glory (whether he himself was converted man or not, I do not know). This was the first thing that disturbed me, gave me much concern. I thought then that I must be saved by prayer.
I used to say the Lords Prayer that It might make me better, but I feared that I grew worse, and I continued worse and worse as long as I thought I would do something to make me better, till at last it seemed as if there was no possibility of relief, and that I must go to hell. I saw myself a mass of sin. I could not read, and had no scriptures. I did not think of Adam and Eve's sin, but I was sin. I felt my own plague, and I was so overcome that I could not wait upon my master. I told him I was Ill. I felt myself at the disposal of Sovereign mercy. At last in prayer to God I began to think that he would deliver me, but I did not know how. Soon after I saw that I could not be saved by my own doings, but that it must be by Gods mercy that my sins had crucified Christ, and now the Lord took away my distress. I was sure that the Lord took it away, because I had such pleasure and joy in my soul, that no man could give me.
Son after I heard Brother George Liele preach, who, as you both know, is at Kingston In Jamaica. I know him ever since he was a boy- "Come unto me all ye that labour, ard are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." When it was ended I went to him and told him I was so, that I was weary and heavy laden and that the Grace of God had given me rest. Afterward Brother Palmer, who was pastor at some distance from Silver Bluff, came and preached to a large congregation aIohat a mill of Mr. Gaulfins. He was a very powerful preacher, and as he was returning home Lords day evening, I went with him two or three miles, and told him how It was with me. About this time more of my fellow creatures began to seek the Lord. Afterwards Brother Palmer came again and wished us to beg Mister to let him preach to us, and he had leave, and came frequently. There were eight (8) of us how who had found the great blessing and mercy from the Lord, and my wife was one of them, and my brother Jessie Gaulfin that you mention in the History of us poor slaves, was another. Brother Palmer appointed Saturday evening to hear what the Lord had done for us, and the next day he baptized us in the Mill stream.
Sometime afterwards, when Brother George Liele came again, and preached in a corn field, I had a great desire to pray with the people myself, but I was ashamed, and went to a swamp and poured out heart before the Lord. I then came back to Brother George Liele and told him my case. He said, in the intervals of service you should engage in prayer with friends. At another time, when he was preaching, I felt the same desire, and after he had done, began in prayer - It gave me great relief and I went home with a desire for nothing else but to talk to the brothers and sisters about the Lord. Brother Palmer formed us into a church, and gave us the Lords supper at Silver Bluff. Then I began to exhort in the Church, and learned to sing hymns. I just learned out of a book with a hymn that great writing man, Watts, which begins with "Thus faith the wisdom of the Lord." Afterwards the Church advised with Brother Palmer about my speaking often, and keeping them together. I refused, and felt I was unfit for all that, but Brother Palmer said this word to me, "Take care that you don't offend the Lord." Then I thought that he knew best, and I agreed that I would do as well as I could. So I was appointed to the office of an Elder, and received instruction from Brother Palmer how to conduct myself. I proceeded in this way till the American war was coning on, when the Ministers were not allowed to come amongst us lest they should furnish us with too much knowledge. The Black people all around attended with us, and as Brother Palmer must not come, I had the whole management and used to preach among them myself. Then I got a spelling book and began to read. As master was a great man, he kept a white school-master who was a great man, to teach the white children to read. I used to go to the little children to teach me a, b, c. They would give me a lesson which I tried to learn, and then I would go to them, again, and ask them If it was right. The reading so ran in my mind, that I think I learned in my sleep, as readily as when I was awake, and I can now read the Bible, so that what I have in my heart, I can see again in the Scriptures. I continued preaching at Silver Bluff till the Church, constituted with light, increased to thirty (30) or more and till the British came to the city of Savannah and took it. My master was an anti loyalist, and being afraid, he now retired from home and left the slaves behind. My wife and I was thrown into prison and laid there about a month, when Colonel Brown belonging to the British took me out. I stayed sometime in Savannah, and at Yamacrow, a little distance from It, preaching with brother George Liele. He and I worked together also a month or two. He used to plow and to weed Indian corn. I and my family went into Savannah at the beginning of the liege. A ball came through the roof of the Stable where we lived, and much shattered it, which made us remove to Yamacrow where we sheltered ourselves under the floor of a house on the ground., Not long after the siege was raised, I caught the smallpox in the fall of the year and thought I should have died, nor could I do any more than just walk in the Spring. My wife used to wash for General Clinton, and out of the little she got maintained us. I was then about a mile from Savannah, when the Americans were coming toward it a second time. I wished my wife to escape, and to take care of herself and of the children to let me die there. She went. I had about two quarts Indian corn which I boiled, I ate a little, and a dog came up and devoured the rest,, but it pleased God. Some people who came along the road gave me a little rice. I grew better, and as the troops did not come so near as was expected, I went into Savannah, where I met my family and tarried there about two years in a hut belonging to Lawyer's Gibbons, where I kept a butchers stall.
My wife had a brother who was half an Indian by his mothers side, and half a Negro. He sent us a steer, which I sold, and had now in all thirteen (13) dollars and about three (3) guineas besides, with which I designed to pay our passage and set off for Charlestown, but the British light horse came in, and took it all away. However, as it was a good time for the sale of meat I borrowed money from some of the Black people to buy hogs, and soon re-paid them, and agreed on a passage to Charlestown, where Major P. the British Commander was very kind to me. When the English were going to evacuate Charlestown, they advised me to go to Halifax in Nova Scotia, and gave the few Black people and it may be as many as two hundred (200) white people, their passage for nothing. We, were twenty-two (22) days on the passage, and used very ill on board. When we came off Halifax, I got leave to go ashore. In showing my papers to G. Patterson, he sent orders, by a Sergeant, for my wife and children to follow me. This was before Christmas, and we stayed there till June, -but as no way was open for me to preach to my own color, I got leave to go to Shelburne, (150 miles or more, I suppose) by sea in the suit of Gen. Patterson, leaving my wife and children for awhile behind. Numbers of my own color were there, but found the white people were against me. I began to sing the first night in the woods at a camp, for there were no houses then built, they were just clearing and preparing to erect a town. The Black people came far and near, it was so new to them. I kept on so every night in the week, and appointed a meeting for the first Lords day, in a valley between two hills, close by the river and a great number of white and black people came, and I was so overjoyed with having an opportunity once more to preach the Word of God, that after I had given out the hymn, I could not speak for tears. In the afternoon we met again down the River, in the same place, and I had great liberty from the Lord. We had a meeting now every evening, and those poor creatures who had never heard the gospel before, listened to me very attentively. But the white people, the justices, and all were in an uproar, and said that I might go out into the woods, for I should not stay there. I ought to except one white man, who knew me at Savannah, and who said I should have his lot to live upon as long as I would, and build a house If I pleased. I then cut down poles, stripped bark, and made a smart hut, and the people came flocking to the preaching every evening for a month, as though they had come for their supper. Then Governor Parr came from Halifax, brought my wife and children, gave me six months provisions for my family, and ¼ one quarter acre of land to cultivate for our subsistence.
It was a spot where there was plenty of water, and which I had secretly wished for, as I knew it would be convenient for baptizing at any time. The weather being severe and the ground covered with snow, we raised a platform of poles for the bearers to stand upon, but there was nothing over their heads. Continuing to attend, they desired to have a meeting house built. We had then a day of hearing what the Lord had done, and I and, my wife hearing their experiences, and I received four of my own colour, brother Samson, brother John, sister Effie, and sister Dinah, these all were well, at Sierra Leone, except brother Sampson, an excellent man, Wedded on his voyage to that place. The first time I baptized here was a little before Christmas in the creek which ran through my lot. I preached to a great number of people on the occasion, who behaved very well. I now formed the church with us six, and administered the Lords supper before it was finished. They went on with the building, and appointed a time every other week to hear experiences. A few months after I baptized nine more, and the congregation was much increased. The worldly Blacks, as well as the members of the Church, assisted in cutting timber in the woods, and in getting shingles, and we used to give a few coppers to buy nails. We were increasing al the winter, and baptized almost every month, and administered the Lords Supper first of all once, in two months, but the frame of the meeting was not all up, nor had we covered it with shingles till about the middle of the summer, and then it had no pulpit, seats, nor flooring.
About this time, Mr. William Taylor and his wife, two Baptists, who came from London to Shelburne, heard of me. She came to my house when I was so poor that I had no money to buy any potatoes for feed, and was so good as to give my children somewhat, and me, money enough to buy a bushel of potatoes; which one produced thirty five (35) bushels. The church was not grown to about fifty (so) members. At this time a white person, William Holmes, who, with Deborah, his wife, had been converted by reading the scriptures, and lived at Jones Harbour, about twenty (20) miles down the river, came up for me, and would have me go away with him in his schooner to his house, I went with him, first to his house, and then to a town they called Liverpool, inhabited by white people. Many had been baptized there by Mr. Chippenham, of Annapolis in N. S. Mr. Jesse Dexter preached to them, but was not their pastor. His a mixed communion church, I preached there; the Christians were all alive, and we had a little heaven together. We then returned to brother Holmes and he and his wife came up with me to Shelburne, and gave their experiences to the church on Thursday, and were baptized on Lords day. Their relations who lived in the town were very angry, raised a mob, and endeavoured to hinder their being baptized. Mrs. Holmes sister especially laid hold of her hair to keep her from going down into the water, but the justices commanded peace, and said that she should be baptized, as she herself desired it. Then they were all quiet. Soon after this the persecution Increased, and became so great, that it did not seem possible to preach, and I thought I must leave Shelburne. Several of the black people had houses upon my lot, but forty (40) or fifty (50) disbanded soldiers were employed, who came with the tackle of ships, and turned my dwelling house, and every one of their houses, quite over, and the meeting house they would have burned down, had not the ring-leader of the mob himself prevented it.
But I continued to preaching it till they came one night, and stood before the pulpit, and swore how they would treat me If I preached again. But I stayed and preached, and the next day they came and beat me with sticks and drove me into the swamp, I returned in the evening, and took my wife and children over to the river to Birchtown, where some black people were settled, and there seemed a greater prospect of doing good then at Shelburne. I preached at Birchtown from the fall until the mid of December and was frequently hearing experiences and baptized about twenty three (23). Those who desired to hear the word of God, invited me from house to house, and so I preached. A little before Christmas, as my own color persecuted me there I set off with my family to return to Shelburne and coming to town the river boat was frozen, but we took whip-saws and cut away the ice till we came to Shelburne. In my absence the meeting house was occupied by a Dartmouth tavern-keeper, who said, The old Negro wanted to make a heaven of this place, but I'll make a hell of it. Then I preached in it as before, and as my house was pulled down, lived in it also. The people began to attend again, and in the summer there was a considerable revival of religion. Now I went down about twenty (20) miles to a place called Ragged Island, and some white people who desire to hear the word. One white sister was converted there while I was preaching conerning the disciples, who left all and followed Christ. She came up afterwards, gave her experience to join Church, ad as. baptize and two Black sisters with her. Then her other sister gave us her experience. and joined us without Baptism, to which she would have submitted, had not the family cruelly hindered her.
By this time, the Christians at St. Johns, about two hundred (200) miles from Shelburne, over the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick had heard of me, and wished me to visit them. Part of the first Saturday I was there was spent in hearing the ences of the Black people, 4 were , some of whom had been converted in Virginia. A fortnight after I baptized them in the river, on the Lords day. Numerous spectators, white and black were present, who behaved very well. But on Monday, many of the inhabitants made a disturbance, declaring that nobody should preach there again without a license from the Governor. He lived at Frederick town about one hundred (100) miles from there up St. Johns River. Col. Allen, who knew me in Charlestown, lived but a few miles from the Governor and introduced me to him, upon which his secretary gave me a license.
S. j Frederick-town 17th July, 1792
I do hereby certify, that David George, a free Negro man, has permission from his Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, to instruct the Black people in the knowledge and give them to the practice of the Christian Religion.
Tom Odell - Secretary.
Returns to St..Johns - preaches again, left Brother Peter Richards till when I got back,
Item Afterwards died on the passage to S. L. and we buried him there.
When I got back to Shelburne, I sent Brother Sampson Colbert, one of my Elders, to L. T. to stay there. When the experiences of nine or ten had been related there, they sent for me to come and baptize them. I went by water to Halifax and walked to Haughton about eighty (80) miles from Annapolis, not far from New Brunswick. This second time of my business at Saint Johns, I staid preaching about a fortnight, and baptized ten (10) people. Our going down to the water seemed to be a pleasing sight to the whole town. White people and Black. I had now to go to Frederick town again, from whence I obtained the license before for one of our brethren had been there, and heard the experiences of three of the people, and they sent them to me, in treaty that . would not return until I had been and baptised them. Two brethren took me to Frederick town in a boat. I baptized in the Lords day, about 12 o'clock. A great number of people attended.*
-Then I was sent for to Preston, It may be four (4) miles from Halifax, over against it on the other side of the river. Five converted persons who lived there, desired to be baptized and join the Church, I baptized them,and administered the Lords supper to them at Preston, and left Brother Hector Peters, one of my Elders with them.-. In returning to Shelburne with about thirty (30) passengers; we were blown off in to the sea, and lost our course. I had no blanket to cover me, and got frost bitten in both my legs up to my knees, and was so ill when I came towards land, that I could not walk. The Church met me at the riverside, and carried me home. Afterwards, when I could walk a little, I wanted to speak of the the Lords goodness, and the brethren made a wooden sledge and drew me to meetings. In the spring of the year I could walk again, but have never been steady since. The Governor said but he had a great deal of from being baptized. He was very sorry that he could not come down to see it, having had company that day, which also hindered one of his servants.
The next fall, Agent (Afterward Gov.) Clarkson came to Halifax about settling the new colony at Sierra Leone. The white people of Nova Scotia were very unwilling that we should go, though they had been very cruel to us, and treated many of us as bad as though we had been slaves. They attempted to persuade us that if we went away we should be slaves again. The brethren and sisters all around Saint Johns, Halifax and other places, Mr. Wesley's people and all, consulted what was best to do, and sent in their names to me, to give to Mr. Clarkson and I was to tell him that they were willing to go. I carried him their names and he appointed to meet us at Birchtown the next day, we gathered together there, in the meeting House of brother Moses, a blind man, me J. M. W preachers. Then the Governor read the proclamations which contained what was offered, in case we had a mind willing to go, and the greater part of us was pleased and agreed to go. We appointed a day over at Shelburne, when the names were to be given to the Governor, Almost all the Blacks went, except a few of the sisters whose husbands were inclined to go back to New York, and sister Lizzie, a Quebec Indian, and brother Lewis, her husband, who was an half Indian, both of whom were converted under my ministry and had been baptized by me. There are a few scattered Blacks yet at Shelburne, Saint Johns, Jones Harbour and Rhode Island. The meeting house lot, and all our land at Shelburne, it may be ½ acre was sold to merchant Black for about 71...
We departed and called at Liverpool. I preached a farewell sermon there. Before I left the town, Major Collins, who with his wife were to hear me at this place; was very kind to me, and gave me some salted herrings, which were very acceptable all the ways to Sierra Leone. We sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, where we tarried three or four weeks, and I preached from house to house. There is also a Mr. Williams Black at Halifax. A smart preacher, one of Mr Wesley's who baptizes those Christians who desire it by immersing. Our passage from Sierra Leone was seven weeks stormy weather. Several persons died on the voyage, of a catching fever among whom were three of my Elders, Sampson Colwell, a loving man, Peter Richards, and John Williams.
There was a great joy to see the land the high mountain, at some distance from Freetown, where we now live, appeared like a cloud to us. I preached the first Lords day, it was a blessed time, under sail, and so I did for several weeks after. We then erected a hovel for a meeting house, which is made of posts put into the ground, and poles over our heads, which we covered with grass. While I was preaching under the sails, sisters Patty Webb and Lucy Lawrence were converted and they with old sister Peggy, brother Bill Taylor, and brother Sampson Haywood, three who were awakened before they came this voyage,have since been baptized in the river. On the voyage from Halifax to Sierra Leone, I asked the Governor if I might not hereafter go to England, and some time after we arrived there, I told him wished to see the Baptist brethren who live in his country. He was a very kind man to me and to everybody. He is very free and good natured, and used to come to hear me preach, and would sometimes it down at our private meetings; and he liked that I should call my last child by his name. And I went to Mr. Henry Thornton; O what a blessed man is that; he is brother, father, everything. He ordered me five guineas, and I had leave to come over. When I came away from Sierra Leone, I preached a farewell sermon to the church, and encouraged them to look to the Lord, and submit to one another, and regard what is said to the by my three Elders, brethren Hector Peters, and John Colbert, who are two exhorters; and brother John Ramsey.