14 July 1861: “The Communion was administered to the white members and then to the negroes; I thought the Communion of the negroes was very affecting…”

Item description: Sarah Lois Wadley was the daughter of William Morrill Wadley (1812?-1882) and Rebecca Barnard Everingham Wadley (fl. 1840-1884) and lived with her family in homes near Amite in Tangipahoa Parish, Monroe and Oakland in Ouachita Parish, La., and near Macon, Ga.

In this entry in her diary, dated 14 July 1861, Wadley describes her involvement in a ladies’ relief society, comments extensively on religious services (including a description of segregated service in which whites and blacks received communion separately), and reports on other family and local news.

[Transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From volume 2 of the Sarah Lois Wadley Papers #1258, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

[Click here to read the entire Sarah Lois Wadley diary, from Documenting the American South]

Sunday, July 14th–

I have been so much occuppied by social duties since Tuesday that I have not had time to write, Wednesday I rode down to the mill with Willie in the morning, and in the evning I went over to Dr. Young’s to call on Miss Marshall of Vicksburg, a young lady who is visiting Carrie. Thursday was the day appointed for the meeting of our society. I of course went, Mother was not able to leave Miss Mary; we had a very pleasant meeting, about twelve or thirteen ladies were present, and we had nineteen names on our list.

The officers elected were, Mrs. Robles, president, Miss Josephine Friend, vice president, Miss Bry, treasurer, and Miss Sarah Wadley, secretary. The next meeting is a week from next Thursday.

Thursday afternoon I went down to see Mrs. Adams and intended to go to Major Bry’s but found his daughter at Mr. Adams, and consequently spent the evening there. Friday morning rode down to the camps with Willie, and paid a visit to Mrs. Hodge Adams; in the afternoon went down to see the Misses Bry, spent a very pleasant hour in the society of the family. Saturday morning the quarterly meeting at the Methodist Church commenced, I went to Church, and heard a sermon, which, though neither elegant nor very tasteful, did me good by giving new impetus to my endeavours to attain goodness.

After service the presiding elder made a few remarks about our sewing society for the soldiers and invited all the ladies to join it. Dr. Young, who was present, proposed that the gentlemen should all retire and leave the ladies unembarressed and said that the secretary, Miss Sarah Wadley who was present, might then take the names; accordingly the gentleman retired, a pencil and paper was obtained and I received eighteen names, some married ladies, some unmarried, two of the ladies paid me their admission fee (one dollar each) which I sent down to the treasurer this morning; my position would probably have been very embarrassing had I not been slightly acquainted with a number of the ladies.

This morning I went to Church again, Miss Marshall went with me, and I found her very agreeable, she has been very well educated and has mixed with good society for two or three years. The Church was very full today, quite a number of people were obliged to remain outside for want of room in the Church. The text was from Romans, upon Christian duty, the minister was very well at home upon this subject, and preached a very good sensible sermon, it was rather long, and many persons complained of fatigue but I was not much tired.

The Communion was administered to the white members and then to the negroes; I thought the Communion of the negroes was very affecting, more so than that of the whites; slaves seem so much more dependent, their position in society makes their deportment so much more humble, that it is peculiarly interesting to see them receive the spiritual body and blood of Christ.

Altogether, service was to me quite impressive, the surroundings were so novel, a country Church built of hewn logs, blackened but not decayed by years; a roof which high and pointed as it was served for a dome, in the top of which spiders had woven their webs, and dirt daubers built their nests unmolested by the occassional congregation; windows without glass but having rude shutters instead; hard wooden benches and a high square pulpit of plain boards without ornament of any kind was the Church which crowned the summit of a low hill, with the forest growth untouched by the axe of the settler, from the windows we looked out upon a thick wall of green of countless beautiful shades and fluttered by cool south breezes; turning our eyes inward they were almost pained by the light colors of dresses mantles and bonnets, pure white, bright pink and green, blue and yellow, quiet brown and somber black, from the young lady dressed in neat, fashionable summer toilet to the poor girl in her flowered caliko and green sun bonnet, all the grades from a dowdy to the neat old country woman or her quiet daughter; and over this heterogenous congregation presided the minister, the circuit rider, a tall sinewy man, with black hair and iron grey beard who expounded the scriptures without the ornament of graceful attitudes or fluent speech, but with energy and sincere plainness, frequently wanting for a word but often propounded a startling question with perfect simplicity and clearness. I have not been to Church before in nearly six months, and though it was differrent, from what I have been accustomed to, still I enjoyed it very much more than I expected.

Willie has joined a company in Trenton, he drilled for the first time yesterday. It is a home guard and will only leave in case of a call for more troops. Willie went to Church with us this morning.

Miss Mary is very much better, she has not had chill since Tuesday she rode out Friday for the first time.

Mother and I went to Mrs. Wilson’s yesterday afternoon, found her very pleasant.

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