Negro Holiness Meetings In Hopkinsville



Once a year a group of 200 or 300 negroes give a religious Camp Meeting in a field on the Canton Pike about one mile southeast of Hopkinsville. There is quite a settlement of negroes call themselves or their church the Holiness Church. They claim to be sanctified and cannot sin. A few nights ago I was invited to attend one of these meetings, the negroes reserve some benches under the tent for white people.

The night that I attended there were two preachers and it seems as though it is the duty of these preachers to bring their discourse to such a point as to play on the emotions of their congregation. The order of service begun with a hymn by the choir. The music for this consisted of a piano, banjo guitar and numerous tambourines. The negroes being naturally born with a great sense of rhythm the songs were not in the same tempo as the songs of the whites but were of a jazz tempo and with
the banjo and tambourines it makes one think of the stories of the African jungles. The services start around 7:30 P.M. and usually break up around midnight.

The negroes in about one hour after the services start being[TR: begin?] to testify and then after each testimony someone offers a prayer then by this time someone in the congregation will be worked up to the pitch of shouting “Glory Hallelulah”. “When this shout starts the tambourine players will begin shaking the tambourines and shortly the majority of the congregation would be shouting, moaning or praying. The tambourines players bounce around in time to the music. There were some excellent untrained voices, in the choir and the congregation. The mourners bench was always full of mourners and when one of the Mourners would begin to shout the “Workers” would then let the congregation know that this brother or sister had repented by saying “Lets pray for Bro. or Sister —-, for he or she had “Come Through”. The congregation would begin clapping their hands while this prayer was in progress and general moanings with one or both of the preachers praying at the same time why
this brother or sister is taken in to the flock to sin no more.

While the above is in progress there are other workers talking and singing to the rest of the mourners and when two or three “Come Through” at once there is great shouting rejoicing, clapping of hands and the tambourines continue to clang and the choir members dance and this process continues for hours or until the preachers become so exausted
with their exhortations and contortions that the meeting is adjourned.

Superstitions of the Negro Race:

In interviewing the different negroes in this community I have not found a single negro that could admit if I asked the direct question that they are the least bit superstitious. The following story happened in my experience with this race about ten years ago.

Fifteen years ago I purchased a farm from the estate of a gentleman that had committed suicide. It seems as though the gentleman took his gun and told the family that he was going to the tobacco barn to shoot rats. This barn was located a short distance from the main dwelling on the farm and then on the other side of this barn were three negro tenant houses.

My first trouble with negroes superstition was to get a tenant to inhabit the house nearest the barn. This cabin was in better repair and larger than the other two cabins and the hardest thing to do was to get a tenant or negro cropper to take this cabin.

They would give every excuse imaginable but the direct answer until finally one man I was trying to make a trade with admitted that “De cabin war ter clos ter de barn Mr. —- killed himself in.” Finally I prevailed on this man to move in by giving him a different garden spot, hog-pen and cowpen as these were still nearer the barn. In fact I moved those buildings thinking I would have an easier time gettin a tenant the next year.

Everything went along beautifully until time came to House the tobacco and not a negro cropper would use this barn for his tobacco. So I had my individual crop housed in this barn. As the type of tobacco mostly grown at that time was bark fired someone had to stay at the barn night and day to attend the fires and watch that a stick of tobacco did not drop in the blaze and burn the barn and contents. As long as my husband or myself stayed in or around the barn we did not have trouble with these darkies but sometimes it to attend to other matters on this farm and had to leave a hired negro in charge and as soon as we would get out of sight of the barn the negro would desert his post. It became evident that one or the other of us stay at this barn night and day until firing season was over. The same thing happened when the stripping season began. These conditions continued until a wind storm blew this barn down. Still I hoard some of the negroes express their thoughts.

Mr. G—- sho had no tention of dat barn standing. I had the tenants separate this lumber for different uses on the farm and the scrap lumber was to be taken to the cabin or the main dwelling to be used as kindling and not a negroe would use this kindling. One negro a tall black man around seventy years old said, “No dat wood wont burn”. I asked, “Why”? He said, “Mr. G—- would sho hant me if I teched a single piece of dat wood ter burn.” So naturally the main dwelling had a bountiful supply of kindling.

This farm was watered by a big spring and branch that ran along behind the stables and near this particular barn and this branch run into a big sink hole and then through a small crevice underground. Once cold and disagreeable winter something blocked this crevice and the waters soon overflowed the sink hole and extended all over the lowlands near. The winter was severely cold and this water began to moderate and a light drizzle of rain was falling and most of the tenants on the farm had
retired for the night when suddenly this ice on the stream broke up and in some manner the crevice had been opened and the sound from this water going in its course underground was terrific. My family as well as myself were very much frightened. No one can imagine the commotion that existed at the cabins on the tenant row near the stream. Negroes poured
from the cabins in all manners of dress or undress even the cold weather did not tempt them to take time to don shoes and hose but came to the back door of my house some crying and moaning and praying, and if there is such a thing as a pale negro these darkies were certainly pale, eyes rolling and the majority of them wanting to leave the farm before daybreak or by that time anyway or else staying in our home all night. Fires were made in the kitchen and they congregated there and most of
them remained there all night. One old negro said or acted as spokesman or the crowd. “Dat all this crowd of niggers need dat Mr. G—- was afer dem and meant foh dem to move or git.”

My husband took one or two of the older men with lanterns and made an investigation. When they reached the branch the overflow was gone and there was no evidence that there had been any water over these fields except for the large blocks of ice that was lying in the field.

With much persuading and cajoling the majority of these negroes went to their cabins that night and the most skeptical stayed in my kitchen all the rest of the night. But peace and quiet reigned once more and from that day as long as these tenants remained with me I did not have any trouble with them being superstitious but each time the tenants were changed the same superstitions had to be met with and their fears had to be quieted.

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