- William Brewster at Niskeyuna, 1778, and: Mother’s Abduction, and: Anna Middleton, 1786-1861, and: Dinah the African, and: My Daddy General Montgomery, and: The Black Family
William Brewster at Niskeyuna, 1778
Why I wonder you ain’t all reelingBackwards, forwards, sideways and downward.… For of Mother’s wine I’ve got a small portionAnd it sets me into a stagg’ring motion
Well, well, I’m willing to stagger,Stagger, stagger away from bondage.Well, well, I’m willing to reel,Reel, real, reel into freedom.Black Bill’s Wonderment, “A ‘negro’ ‘drinking’ song from the Second family, Canterbury, first sung Feb. 22, 1847”
—Edward Deming Andrews
Well, I never sang any such of a thing,though I did hear chanties like itworking pumps, cooking on ships.Some as didn’t know mecalled me Black Bill.I was a high-toned man, myself.
It was untelling to my friendswhy I took up with Shakers.But to look at them, Whittaker,Mother Ann Lee, her brother William,with Abraham Stanley, Ann’s muddled man,and all them, bedraggled after a rough crossing,there on the dock, little to their names…I hadn’t really any other thing in mindto do that time of year.
Hocknell, he had some plans, butit was me knew families and shopswhere they could hire out right off,room and board, a few shillings a week.
They got—I guess you could call it a farmup the Hudson at Niskeyuna.Scarcely ceased to be gratefulfor my work on the place. It took so littleto keep us all entertained, between sicknesses.We sung our heads off day and night,danced dances you never could have dreamedjust trying to get warm. The noiseattracted locals like Indians who allseemed glad to try the foodand watch the goings on.
No, I never made any song like“Black Bill’s Wonderment.”Now, give it another winter at Niskeyuna,I could have. [End Page 437]
New Lebanon, New York, 1789
George is my brother.I’m David. None of the brethrenI know of have ties like ours,born of the same mother,born again of our MotherAnn Lee.
Time after time of evenings,we’d talk of how she gotcarried off by rowdies, hurt,felt under her clothes.As if it could be provenpower like that could belongto no woman, as if them being drunkexcused the sin.
Sister Melinda Welch, Sister Mary Taylor,when among us, would have heardthese stories with particular fear.Townsmen did that to a white,they’d as like do worse if you were black,if you were young and pretty.
The night that this all happened,when Father William got Mother back,the women helped her settle. We barredthe door. Let them in, she said.They want to apologize.
Was she in her right mind? all thought,but knew from Gospel, truth:
Anna Middleton, 1786-1861
Union Shaker Village, Ohio
Second Western Shaker convert
Soon as I come in Ohio, I was free,no matter how things stood in Virginia.
I’d stay with people near Beedle Station.At Turtle Creek, then, it was our new churchwould be the good soil wherein the Lord could plantthe seed of Mother’s Gospel. Early spring,1805, the messengers arrived. Brother Worleywelcomed them and followed. Welcomed meto go along. The others said they hadto give it thought, work things out. Huh, gal.You how old? Nineteen. Never gonnawant a man?
Sure I would, but thenbelieving’s what came first with me. [End Page 438]
Dinah the African
Union Shaker Village, Ohio
One December meeting, 1843,Sister Susan Cole told usDinah the African was here.
A few looked quick at us six colored onesas if Dinah were our kin.Susan told that two men caughtthis Dinah, trapped her in a ship,threw her overboard.She got eaten by a fish.I didn’t know of anybody done like that,but Susan said that Dinah wanted to join.
Not that any...