BLACK SEAMAN PROTECTION DOCUMENT PROVIDENCE RI 1806
RARE ORGINAL AFRICAN AMERICAN MARINER CERTIFICATE

ORGINAL AFRICAN AMERICAN MARINER DOCUMENT

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Rare, Early, American Seaman Protection Document certifying "That Noah Brown, an American Seaman, aged Twenty Four Years, or thereabouts, of the Height of Five Feet, Four & half Inches, Black Complexion, has a scar on his right leg, and one on his left arm, and marks of the small pox in his face". Great AMERICAN EAGLE symbol at top of certificate. Back of doc has pencil note in French, can read part of " . . .Justice de la police Le Havre . . .". Signed "Jer.h Olney" Affixed Seal lower right corner [faded]. Good Condition, some paper loss 7.5" by 11.125".

 

Title William J. Brown: An African American Childhood in New England
Author William J. Brown
Date 1882
Type Primary Sources: Autobiography

William J. Brown was born in 1814 into a free African American family in Providence, Rhode Island. His father's parents had been slaves owned by Rhode Island's greatest mercantile family, the Browns; his mother was the daughter of an African-American slave and a Narragansett Indian woman. Brown's father had been a sailor and laborer; William worked at these occupations as well, but became a shoemaker and a prominent member of the African-American community in Providence. His autobiography, published in 1883, is one of the fullest records of black life in New England in the years before the Civil War. The excerpts presented here deal with his family, childhood and schooling, in the years 1814 - ca. 1830.

Excerpts from The Autobiography of William J. Brown

[Kinship & Family]


I was born in the town of Providence, State of Rhode Island, November 10, 1814…My father's name was Noah Brown; his father was Cudge Brown and his mother Phillis Brown. Grandfather Brown was born in Africa, and belonged to a firm (named Brown Brothers) consisting of four, named respectively, Joseph, John, Nicholas and Moses Brown. They held slaves together, each brother selecting out such as they wished for house service; the rest of the slaves to perform out-door labor. I am not positive, but believe my grandfather was brought from Africa in the firm's vessel. He had two or three brothers. One was named Thomas, and the other Sharp or Sharper Brown, and they worked for Moses Brown. My grandfather was occupied as a teamster, doing the team work for two farms, the one on which Mr. Brown lived, and the other to the northward towards Swan Point Road …


… My grandfather was married to Phillis, Nov 20th, 1768, and they went to keeping house, living in one towards the north end of Olney street, owned by Mr. Brown, where he kept his teams. Newport, his oldest son, was born April 22d, 1769. Rhoda, his oldest daughter, was born Sept. 27th, 1776, and Noah, my father, was born September 20th, 1781. James was born November 17th, 1788 ….


My father married Alice Greene; her maiden name was Alice Prophet. She was a widow, having lost her husband, Uriah Greene, several years previous to her second marriage. They were married in Cranston, R. I., the 25th of December, 1805, and commenced keeping house in that town, but being engaged in a seafaring life, he removed to Providence, and rented a house of Dr. Pardon Bowen, situated on Wells street. During his residence in Cranston, he had a son born, July 10th, 1810, and named him Joseph George Washington Brown. My sister, Mary Alice, was born Sept. 1811, in this city. My brother George was born Sept. 23d, 1817. After residing in Dr. Pardon Bowen's house five years, we were obliged to move, as Mr. Bowen wished to make a strawberry bed in the garden where the house was located. My father hired a house called the Red Lion, near the junction of South Main and Power streets, on the north side, the place where the Amateur Dramatic Hall now stands. My brother Henry was born there in 1820...


My mother, as I stated, was a widow when she was married to my father. I never had any knowledge respecting her first hus­band's relations. My mother's relations were the Prophets, who belonged to the Narragansett tribe, and resided in Cranston. My grandmother's father was a man of note and one of the chiefs, and called, Grandfather Jeffery. Whether he was a prophet by name or by title I know not. He had two daughters, but whether he had any sons I know not, but think he had none. One of grandfather Jeffery's daughters married a white man, preferring civilized to savage life. The other daughter, my grandmother, purchased a colored man and married him, by whom she had five children, one son and four daughters, John, Phebe, Mary, Alice, and Eunice. Her father being very much displeased with her management, gave his effects to the first, who married the white man, and the fourth generation are living in the city at present, and moving in upper circles. After some years his anger abated towards his daughter's husband and he rendered some aid to the family….

 

TitleWilliam J. Brown: An African American Childhood in New England  
AuthorWilliam J. Brown
Date1882
Type Primary Sources: Autobiography

William J. Brown was born in 1814 into a free African American family in Providence, Rhode Island. His father's parents had been slaves owned by Rhode Island's greatest mercantile family, the Browns; his mother was the daughter of an African-American slave and a Narragansett Indian woman. Brown's father had been a sailor and laborer; William worked at these occupations as well, but became a shoemaker and a prominent member of the African-American community in Providence. His autobiography, published in 1883, is one of the fullest records of black life in New England in the years before the Civil War. The excerpts presented here deal with his family, childhood and schooling, in the years 1814 - ca. 1830.

Excerpts from The Autobiography of William J. Brown

[Kinship & Family]


I was born in the town of Providence, State of Rhode Island, November 10, 1814…My father's name was Noah Brown; his father was Cudge Brown and his mother Phillis Brown. Grandfather Brown was born in Africa, and belonged to a firm (named Brown Brothers) consisting of four, named respectively, Joseph, John, Nicholas and Moses Brown. They held slaves together, each brother selecting out such as they wished for house service; the rest of the slaves to perform out-door labor. I am not positive, but believe my grandfather was brought from Africa in the firm's vessel. He had two or three brothers. One was named Thomas, and the other Sharp or Sharper Brown, and they worked for Moses Brown. My grandfather was occupied as a teamster, doing the team work for two farms, the one on which Mr. Brown lived, and the other to the northward towards Swan Point Road …


… My grandfather was married to Phillis, Nov 20th, 1768, and they went to keeping house, living in one towards the north end of Olney street, owned by Mr. Brown, where he kept his teams. Newport, his oldest son, was born April 22d, 1769. Rhoda, his oldest daughter, was born Sept. 27th, 1776, and Noah, my father, was born September 20th, 1781. James was born November 17th, 1788 ….


My father married Alice Greene; her maiden name was Alice Prophet. She was a widow, having lost her husband, Uriah Greene, several years previous to her second marriage. They were married in Cranston, R. I., the 25th of December, 1805, and commenced keeping house in that town, but being engaged in a seafaring life, he removed to Providence, and rented a house of Dr. Pardon Bowen, situated on Wells street. During his residence in Cranston, he had a son born, July 10th, 1810, and named him Joseph George Washington Brown. My sister, Mary Alice, was born Sept. 1811, in this city. My brother George was born Sept. 23d, 1817. After residing in Dr. Pardon Bowen's house five years, we were obliged to move, as Mr. Bowen wished to make a strawberry bed in the garden where the house was located. My father hired a house called the Red Lion, near the junction of South Main and Power streets, on the north side, the place where the Amateur Dramatic Hall now stands. My brother Henry was born there in 1820...


My mother, as I stated, was a widow when she was married to my father. I never had any knowledge respecting her first hus­band's relations. My mother's relations were the Prophets, who belonged to the Narragansett tribe, and resided in Cranston. My grandmother's father was a man of note and one of the chiefs, and called, Grandfather Jeffery. Whether he was a prophet by name or by title I know not. He had two daughters, but whether he had any sons I know not, but think he had none. One of grandfather Jeffery's daughters married a white man, preferring civilized to savage life. The other daughter, my grandmother, purchased a colored man and married him, by whom she had five children, one son and four daughters, John, Phebe, Mary, Alice, and Eunice. Her father being very much displeased with her management, gave his effects to the first, who married the white man, and the fourth generation are living in the city at present, and moving in upper circles. After some years his anger abated towards his daughter's husband and he rendered some aid to the family….


[Housing]


The house which my father rented [was] located in the south part of the town, near the water. It was a gambrel roofed house, painted with plain boards like clapboards, and painted red … On the west side was a door and two windows, one over the other, and two doors on the north side, one leading into the cellar, the other into the back yard, with two windows the same as in front. The inside of the house was arranged as follow: two rooms on the first floor, the largest used for a kitchen, the other for a sitting room or bed room. Adjoining us on the east was a sailor boarding house kept by Mr. James Axum. From our east window could be seen a fine garden filled with various kind of vegetables belonging to Mr. Axum. There were two rooms upstairs arranged the same as below, having access by a stair-way in a small entry three feet by six, on the north side of the west room. When we first moved in we occupied the upper rooms, until the family below could vacate their rooms, which was some six months after we moved in. Two rooms was considered quite a genteel tenement in these days for a family of six, especially if they were colored, the prevailing opinion being that they had no business with a larger house than one or two rooms. The family occupying the lower floor of our house were considered the upper crust of the colored population, Mr. Thomas Reed by name, by trade a barber, and kept a fashionable shaving saloon…


He was responsible for the rent to Mr. Tillinghast and other heirs, to whom it belonged. It was forty dollars per year. There being more room than he needed or could afford to pay for, he rented the upper part for fifteen dollars per year; which re­duced his rent to twenty-five dollars. The landlords received their rents quarterly. Every one knew, in those days that a man having a family of six could not pay the rent of four rooms, un­less he robbed or went on the highway to get a living …


[Childhood and Schooling]


After we had taken the lower tenement of the house, mother said to me one day, that it was my birthday; 'that I was born on the 10th of November, and was seven years old, and it was commonly stated that the boy at seven years is old enough to earn his own living, but, I think seven years is too young, but I want you to remember when your birthday comes.' And from that day forth I have never forgotten it…


In the Fall I waited anxiously for my birthday to come. I kept run of the months and days until the time came, and had the pleasure of telling mother that that was my birthday. I was eight years old. That was the time mother said a boy was capable of earning his own living, in her opinion. I tired to make myself useful by running errands and doing work around the house that mother wanted done. I frequently went out with brother Joseph, who was four years older than myself. He was a stout, thick-set boy, and often got into trouble with other boys…


Mother had a task to keep brother in his place, as he was twelve years old, and father was away to sea. Soon Mr. Eaton, a gentleman from Framingham, a relative of Judge Staples's wife, wanted a boy, and hearing of brother Joseph, came to see mother about him. He made an agreement to take him a year on trial, for his victuals, clothes and schooling, and he went home with Mr. Eaton on trial for a year. After he left home my services were required doing chores around the house, cutting wood, etc. This was before hard coal was brought in use in Providence, and every one burned wood, which cost four or five dollars a cord….


About this time some ladies opened a free school for colored youth …I was large enough to go into the lowest class. A semi-circle was painted in front of the teacher's desk. When the class was called each scholar had to toe the circle. It extended across the room and would accommodate some twelve children, who stood front of the teacher to read and spell, the teacher remaining at her desk…. After speaking my piece and making a low bow, I descended from the stand, as I had been instructed to do by Miss Latham. I spoke it to her satisfaction, and the praise and admiration of all present, who declared that I was to be a great man, and if the necessary measures were taken, there was no doubt but that I would be of great use to my people; but that was the winding up of this school. Preparations were being made to open a school in the vestry of our new meeting house, which was just finished…


The house was finished in 1821. The committee lost some time in trying to find a teacher, to instruct the school under the Lancasterian plan. After searching in vain they procured a white gentleman by the name of Mr. Ormsbee, to teach them. The school was opened in the vestry, but not a free school, the price of tuition being $1.50 per quarter. The colored people sent their children and they soon had the number of 125 scholars… Colored teachers were very rarely to be found, and it was difficult to procure a white teacher, as it was considered a disgraceful employment to be a teacher of colored children and still more disgraceful to have colored children in white schools….


At that time the colored people had little or no protection. It was thought a disgrace to plead a colored man's cause, or aid in getting his rights as a citizen, or to teach their children in schools. The teachers themselves were ashamed to have it known that they taught colored schools…The feeling against the colored people was very bitter. The colored people themselves were ignorant of the cause, unless it could be attributed to our condition, not having the means to raise themselves in the scale of wealth and affluence, consequently those who were evil disposed would offer abuse whenever they saw fit, and there was no chance for resentment or redress…


But it was considered such a disgrace for white men to teach colored schools that they would be greatly offended if the colored children bowed or spoke to them on the street. Mr. Anthony, who was at one time teaching the colored school, became very angry because Zebedee Howland met him on the street, spoke to him, raised his hat and bowed. He took no notice of his dark complexioned scholar, but the next Monday morning took poor Zebedee and the whole school to task, saying, 'When you meet me on the street, don't look towards me, or speak to me; if you do, I will flog you the first chance I get.' …


[The Subordination of Children]


It was the custom for children on seeing their parish teacher or minister to raise their hats and speak to them, and the girls to make a courtesy. This instruction was taught to them by their parents when small. It was often stated by elderly people that children were to be seen and not heard. When company were in the house they were not to make much noise, and when they came into their own house they must take off their hats and sit down. If they did not know enough to take of[f] their hats they would soon teach them that their heads must be uncovered while in the house. They did not allow their children to be the first at the table; and when called they did not suffer them to help themselves, but to wait until they were helped; when they wanted anything always to ask for it, and when they had finished eating to rise from the table and thank their parents. My parents were so strict that they did not allow us to come to the table until they had finished eating; then they would put victuals on our plates and call us. When we came to the table we had to stand up to eat, not to sit down in chairs. We had to eat just what they put on our plate, and to have our plates cleared before we could have them replenished. When in the street to be respectful to every one, and be very careful not to run against any elderly person. If we did we were liable to feel the weight of their cane; also, to be particular when sent on an errand to a person's house, to knock at the door, and when we enter take off our hats and make a low bow, holding our hats in hand until we went out.



Source
The Autobiography of William J. Brown (1883; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 5-11, 32-35, 40-51, 86-88. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.

TitleWilliam J. Brown’s Courtship, Autobiography  
AuthorWilliam J. Brown
Date1869
Type Primary Sources: Autobiography

William J. Brown was born in 1814 into a free family of color in Providence, Rhode Island. As a young man, Brown learned a trade and struggled against white prejudice to make a living. Then he fell in love. This part of his autobiography tells how he courted the young woman who became his wife.

Excerpts from The Autobiography of William J. Brown

I have previously remarked that the colored people have but very little chance to elevate themselves to a position of influence and wealth, and I determined to travel until I could find a brighter prospect for the future than Providence. I found, however, that there was a very formidable hindrance blocking up my pathway. I had made the acquaintance of a young lady schoolmate while attending school. This acquaintance was not formed for any special purpose, but simply to have some one to spend my leisure hours with. I made it a practice to call twice a week, as I was remarkably fond of being in the society of ladies. The reason I did not want to make a wife of her then was, because I was not able to support her, having no permanent business that would warrant me a living, and thought it better for one to be miserable than two.

I had been waiting upon her some two years, and thought I would break off the easiest way I could. I commenced by making short visits when I called, saying I could not stay long, as I had some engagement that called me away, at the same time watching to see the effect it would produce. I found it created a worriment of mind, making her very inquisitive. The next step was to omit a visit at the regular time. This brought forth questions I could not answer satisfactorily without telling a falsehood; finally I knew not what to do, for my visits had aroused a passion in my heart and mind I could not smother. I was also satisfied that if I wished to make a companion of her for life I could find no one with more attractions in personal appearances, qualifications or ability, than she possessed in my weak judgement.

The question was, however, soon decided with me, for the time was fast approaching when I must settle on the subject of my departure. I was taken suddenly ill, suffering much from pain, which I could not account for. I had eaten nothing to cause it. It continued increasing until I was compelled to shut up my shop and go home. This was before my mother’s death, and she was an excellent nurse…I had repeated attacks, each one becoming more severe, until I was compelled to give up the idea of going away…I had said nothing to my intended or any one else about going away, but had merely said that if people could not prosper in one place they had better move to another…

Now the question to be settled was, would she accept me for a husband. I could not boast of any beauty and was near-sighted. Uniting in wedlock was no small thing to consider; its conditions extended through life. In making up her mind these defects might make her change her opinion of me. She might think it for her interest to marry a man blessed with good eyesight; if anything happened after marriage it would be something out of her power to obviate. I prized my good education highly, for it was in my favor; it excelled that of my associates at this time and if anything, present or future, could be accomplished by it, the means were in my possession. I also prized the good character I bore, for I was held in esteem by the elderly people for industry and politeness. The young people had a good opinion of me, because I was well spoken of by the aged; having knowledge of the estimate placed upon my character, I thought my defects would not be noticed.

I now felt that the time had come for me to settle this question, for it had long been a source of trouble to me. I had made her frequent visits and enjoyed myself much in her society. Now I desired to know something of her personal appearance during the day, when engaged in her domestic affairs. To accomplish this I would drop something during the evening, which would cause me to call after during the next day. I would go at different hours for the things. It was common for ladies to be prepared for company during the evening; then one could find no fault with their appearance; but to my satisfaction I always found her in trim, dressed according to her work. I considered her every way qualified, so far as domestic affairs were concerned, to make a suitable companion for any one, whether in high or low degree, and every one spoke well of her character. Her temper was mild, and there was but few who could equal her in looks, besides she enjoyed the best of health, having a carriage* and appearance well calculated to sustain it. Thus having the matter settled in my own mind, I found no just cause to prevent us from getting married. I went and brought matters to a close respecting our union in just three months from that day.

The varied incidents which had been thrown in my way had made its impression upon my mind, and my views in regard to the future were entirely changed. Instead of making preparations to go out and see the world, I decided to settle down at home; my business was good and increasing every day, everything seemed to warrant my success in supporting a family if I had one.


Glossary
*carriage - manner of holding and moving one's head and body; posture

Source
The Autobiography of William J. Brown (1883; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 152-155.

TitleWilliam J. Brown’s Search for Work, Autobiography  
AuthorWilliam J. Brown
Date1869
Type Primary Sources: Autobiography

William J. Brown was born in 1814 into a free black family in Providence, Rhode Island. His father’s parents had been slaves owned by Rhode Island’s greatest merchant family, the Browns; his mother was the daughter of an African-American slave and a Narragansett Indian woman. Beginning with its abolition in Massachusetts in 1786, slavery was abolished in the New England states in the early nineteenth century. As slaves, African American men in New England had practiced a wide range of trades but once freed they were usually confined to a handful of low-paying occupations. In this excerpt from his autobiography Brown recounts his struggles as a young man choosing and finding work. His father had been a sailor and laborer; William became a shoemaker and a prominent member of the African American community in Providence.

Excerpts from The Autobiography of William J. Brown

I now thought it time for me to look for a place to learn a trade…My mother had just died, after a short illness; her burial occurring on the 3d of December, 1831, which caused a great change in our family. This change made me the more anxious to secure a good place to learn my trade.

My first call was on a Mr. Knowles, a first-class carpenter, to see if he would take me as an apprentice to the trade. His excuse was that he had but little work, and that he was going to close up business. I next applied to a Mr. Langley, a shoemaker, to see if he would learn me the shoe business; but he refused without giving me an excuse. I made application to several gentlemen doing business, for a chance to work, but all refused me, giving some very frivolous excuse. I could readily see that the people were determined not to instruct colored people in any art*. I next called on Mr. Ira B. Winsor, a grocery man. Making known to him my wants I gained his sympathy, and a promise to do what he could for me. His promise to hire me as a clerk encouraged me very much. He had first to consult his uncle, who was his guardian, before he could give me a decided answer. His uncle bitterly opposed his hiring a black boy while there was so many white boys he could get. This objection of his uncle displeased him much, and he told him if he could not have me he would have none. So he never hired a clerk…Other boys of my acquaintance, with little or no education, jerked up instead of being brought up, were learning trades and getting employments, and I could get nothing. It seemed singular to me at first. I soon found it was on account of my color, for no colored man except barbers had trades, and that could hardly be called a trade. The white people seemed to be combined against giving us any thing to do which would elevate us to a free and independent position. The kindest feelings were manifested towards us in conversation, and that was all. I was now seventeen years old, and was at a loss to know what steps to take to get a living…To drive carriage, carry a market basket after the boss, and brush his boots, or saw wood and run errands, was as high as a colored man could rise. This seemed to be the only prospect lying in my path. Some of my associates worked for eight or ten dollars a month, but what would that small pittance be to them, settled down in life with a family to support, if they should have long continued sickness to contend with. This wouldn’t suit me; I must go somewhere else to find employ.

I now commenced the study of book-keeping, thinking it would be of use to me sometime. I continued my study one year, when I had a chance to get work with a wealthy lawyer, to take care of his office and bedroom, paying me five dollars a month, and extra pay for all extra work done…Mr. Greene [the lawyer] was much pleased with my work...

I then applied to Enos Freeman, a colored man who had just opened a shop to repair shoes…I told him I wanted to learn the trade and if he would learn me I would board myself*. He told me to come and he would learn me all he knew about it. I went home and told father; he was much pleased about it and said if I would go there and learn my trade he would board me…I commenced and learned very fast. At the close of that year Mr. Freeman was taken sick and after a short illness died. I purchased all his tools of his half brother, Geo. Peters, determined to work until I could raise means to go away, which would take about eighteen months. My custom* increased and promised great success. I had the waiters’ work from the City Hotel, Franklin and Mansion House, besides waiters that lived in private families; and the prospect was that if my business continued good, I would have a sufficient amount of money at the appointed time to travel with, to some place where I could make a permanent living, for I was determined to go to someplace where my prospects would be more encouraging. I also began to think that if I could be more successful in business, I would like to get married…so I concluded to make an effort to test my powers to do extra work. Then if I should be compelled to resort to that method to support a family, it would not be a new thing to me…I commenced working nights until 12 o’clock, then replenish the fire and rest while it was kindling. Then it would be warm enough to commence working again. I followed it up one week…I continued working for two [more] weeks to see if I could endure the extra task…I felt that I had been working at night long enough to warrant success in supporting a family…

In the summer time work was very scarce, and I did any work I could get to do. In the winter season I had a plenty to do; as customers must have dry feet. In the summer I was without work half of the time. I could not stay at home and wait for work to come in, so I went out and looked for any thing I could find…Passing Mrs. Helme’s on George street, I saw in front of her door a cord of wood; I called in and engaged to saw and put it in the wood-shed. I put it in the yard and sawed the most of it that night, finishing it the next morning…I was out of work and knew I must find something to do to get us some food. I took some soap and a bucket of clothes, and with my sleeves rolled up went toward the college, inquiring for work as I went along, finding none. At the college I rapped on a student’s room door and asked for work, also at a door where a young man wanted his bedstead cleaned and floor washed, which I did; he then wanted some painting done, that I also did; earning four dollars and a half for the job. I was again out of work, and went out to look for more, but did not find any; on returning home my wife asked me what luck I had, I answered none; she said she had found a job at the Boston and Providence R. R. depot; a man had called that afternoon and engaged her to go to work in the morning. I said I would go and help her; we went, taking such things as we needed. I asked the gentleman what he wanted done. He said the ceiling, sides and floor of the office cleaned…I continued and finished every room in the building in eleven days, which, at $1.50 a day, amounted to sixteen dollars and a half…

I soon learned that Barker and Wheaten wanted a man to dress* new work. I made application for the place, telling them I heard they wanted a man; they said they did, and asked if I understood dressing new shoes with gum; I said I was a shoemaker by trade, but had never used any gum; they asked for recommendations…One asked if I knew his barbers, James Scott and Charles Burrell; I said I was well acquainted with them; he said I will see them, and if they speak well of you, you come next Monday and I will let you know. The next Monday I went to the store and Mr. Barker said to me, Messrs. Burrell and Scott spoke well of you, and said you was just the man we wanted; we want you to come mornings and open the store, make the fire and sweep the room; for that we will pay one dollar a week; we want you to dress shoes with gum, and we will allow you twenty-five cents a case; when you assist in rolling leather, we will allow you one cent a boll; you need not close the store at night, we attend to that; we pay out money but once in three months for work; we sell and receive on three months’ credit…After having been shown how to dress the shoes I commenced doing precisely as I had been shown, and worked all day on that one case, and got only about two-thirds of it done. I thought if I made no better progress that during the week I should leave off. The next day I finished that case and another one besides, and at the close of the week I was able to dress three cases a day; being particular to have him examine each case before they were repacked. When I went home nights I would find some work to be done to sustain myself the coming day. I now found that I was obliged to put in practice that which I was once trying as an experiment, working nights. Some nights I would work until eleven o’clock, and other nights until after midnight…


Glossary
*art - trade; skill
*board myself - arrange for and pay for his own meals and lodging. In the early 19th-century, employers often provided room and board as part of a worker’s compensation.
*custom - paid work or regular customers
*dress the shoes - adding a finish to improve the appearance of the shoes

Source
The Autobiography of William J. Brown (1883; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 102-104, 107-111, 114, 116. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.

TitleWilliam J. Brown’s Temperance Association, Autobiography  
AuthorWilliam J. Brown
Date1869
Type Primary Sources: Autobiography

William J. Brown was an African-American shoemaker living in Providence, Rhode Island. Although African-Americans were free in all the New England states after 1820, there was a great deal of racial discrimination and segregation. “Mainstream” reform societies and political parties were closed to their participation. However, in this section of his autobiography, Brown tells how members of “the colored community” of Providence organized for temperance, responding to the same promptings of reform as their white fellow citizens.

Excerpted from The Autobiography of William J. Brown

Among the varied causes which came up for consideration, and in which the colored people became interested was the temperance cause. Meetings were held and a temperance society was formed…which was called the Young Men’s Union Friendly Association. It continued to grow and become very prosperous. I became a very active member in it being called upon to fill many prominent offices, and although all our members were married men, they still kept up the organization, proposing to get incorporated. I wrote the petition…and gave it to Mr. Wingate Hayes to carry into the general assembly, and was noticed in the papers. The society expressed great surprise at our next meeting to find that our petition had gone into the general assembly, and at the next meeting I had the pleasure of informing them that our charter was granted. It was the first charter ever granted to a colored society of Rhode Island. The society were proud that they had made such an advancement, and proposed having a banner and paying a visit to some place where we could show ourselves. Some of our members went to a man on Westminster street who did that kind of painting, and asked what he would charge to paint a banner for our society. He inquired about the society, and was told that we had just been chartered. He wanted to see our constitution. We let him see it, and after examining our charter he said that he would get us up a banner for fifteen dollars, but did not wish to have it known as he would paint one for any one for less than fifty dollars. He got us up one with a house and a weeping willow on one side, over which was a star and the letters Y.M.U.F. Society, instituted 1828, and on the other side was a white and colored man joined hands with a flag staff between them, bearing the American flag and encircled by a wreath, having at the bottom the word Union, and above the wreath in a semi-circle form were the words Young Men’s Union Friend Society, incorporated January, 1844.

Our uniform was black caps, with glazed tops. On the left breast was a gilt star with a blue ribbon attached, and cream colored patent leather belts with a brass clasp in front, and white pants, dress coats, and white gloves. They made a contract with Mr. Comstock, master of transportation, to carry us at half price. On the morning of the first we started with a large company. It was quite foggy, and rained hard before we reached New Bedford. They had postponed the celebration until the next day. The committee were in waiting for us at the depot, as the rain had ceased, and escorted us up, our banner being covered. The day was clear and bright, and at half-past nine we marched to the place where the line was to be formed. The procession moved at ten a.m., having a cavalcade of one hundred mounted men in front, followed by the Anti-Slavery societies, then our society, making a fine appearance. We marched to the Town Hall, escorted in and welcomed by the citizens. After being addressed by some of the officials the line was again formed and made a parade through some of the principal streets. We then repaired to the grove. A stage was prepared for the speakers and music. The society appointed me as the orator…The next morning we went home well pleased with our visit. After we got our charter, the Young Men’s Friendly Assistant Society, and the Seaman’s Friend Society, applied for an act of incorporation and received charters. We then had three incorporated Societies in our city, besides The Mutual Relief, The Young Men’s Morning Star, The Temperance Society and the Anti-Slavery Societies, making in all seven active societies, ready to unite on any occasion requiring their services. They were called out every year on the first of August, as we generally had a grand demonstration on that day, with a procession which paraded the principal streets of the city, and retired to a grove and spent the day in speaking and partaking of refreshments.



Source
The Autobiography of William J. Brown (1883; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 122, 127-131. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.

mmm Hi

SIBbM



mum



THE LIFE



OF



WILLIAM J. BROWN,

' OF PROVIDENCE, R. L



WITH PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF INCI-
DENTS IN RHODE ISLAND.



PROVIDENCE :
ANGELL & CO., PRINTERS.
1883.



PREFACE.



In presenting this work to the public, the object of
the author may be looked upon in a two-fold sense,
viz., that he is totally blind, afflicted with paralysis,
and without means to meet his obligations and support
himself ; and as a necessary resort to accomplish his
object, he herein presents to the public a review of his
past life, believing that it will commend itself to the
favorable notice of his many friends, and to the public
generally.

Secondly, it is evident that a great change has taken
place in our community in the past sixty years, the
survivors of that period have nearly all passed away,
aud if the events of those times are not soon recorded,
there will be no one to present them to the public ;
and the rising generation will have but faint concep-
tion of the discouragements and disadvantages with
which their parents had to contend, which greatly
impeded their progress in moral and religious culture-
And should the question arise in the minds of the
present or future generation, why the people of the
free States have made so little progress in wealth and
literary acquirements, a reference to this work will
satisfy every one seeking for information, as to the
real cause, and also convince every candid mind



PBEFACE.



that under the varied circumstances which then ex-
isted, the success of their efforts could by no means
be excelled, and the men of the present day must
make large and heavy strides on the road of improve-
ment to compare favorably with their fathers, or fall
in the rear.

The author has given particular attention to every
detail in this work, that a faithful and true record may
be presented of himself and his ancestors, the success
of their efforts under the trials, disadvantages and
discouragements with which they had to contend, and
their unflinching perseverance to the end. And be-
lieving that he has the sympathies of many friends
who wish him success, he now presents this book to
an appreciative public.



WILLIAM J: BROWN.



CHAPTER I.

I was born in the town of Providence, State of
Rhode Island, November 10, 1314. The house in
which 1 was born was situated on a street running
from Power to William street, the house standing on
the southwest corner of a lot belonging to Dr. Pardon
Bowen, his mansion being located on the northeast
corner of the lot, facing the south side of Power street.
My father's name was Noah Brown ; his father was
Cudge Brown and his mother Phillis Brown. Grand-
father Brown was born in Africa, and belonged to a
firm (named Brown Brothers) consisting of four,
named respectively, Joseph, John, Nicholas and Moses
Brown. They held slaves together, each brother
selecting out such as they wished for house service ;
the rest of the slaves to perform out-door labor. I
am not positive, but believe my grandfather was
brought fiom Africa in the firm's vessel. He had two
or three brothers. One was named Thomas, and the
other Sharp or Sharper Brown, and they worked for
Moses Brown. My grandfather was occupied as a
teamster, doing the team work for two farms, the one
on which Mr. Brown lived, and the other to the north-
ward towards Swan Point Road. My father married
Alice Greene ; her maiden name was^ Alice Prophet,



Q WILLLAM J. BROWN.

She was 'a widow, having lost her husband, Uriah
Greene, several years previous to her second
marriage. They were married in Cranston,
R. I., the 25th of December, 1805, and commenced
keeping house in that town, but being engaged in
a seafaring life, he removed to Providence, and
rented a house of Dr. Pardon Bowen, situated on
Wells street. During his residence in Cranston, he
had a son born, July 10th, 1810, and named him
Joseph George Washington Brown. My sister, Mary
Alice, was born Sept. 1811, in this city. My brother
George was born Sept. 23d, 1817. After residing
in Dr. Pardon Bowen's house five years, we were
obliged to move, as Mr. Bowen wished to make a
strawberry bed in the garden where the house was
located. My father hired a house called the Red
Lion, near the junction of South Main and Power
streets, on the north side, the place where the Ama-
teur Dramatic Hall now stands. My brother Henry
was born there in 1820.

Worthy mention may be made of Mr. Moses
Brown, one 1 of the owners of my father. He be-
longed to the Society of Friends, and was highly
esteemed by every one, and considered himself a
Christian man, and would not allow his people to live
in adultery if he could help it. My grandfather was
married to Phillis, Nov 20th, 1768, and they went to
keeping house, living in one towards the north end
of Olney street, owned by Mr. Brown, where he kept

his teams. Q
Newport, his oldest son, was born April 22d, 1769.
Rhoda, his oldest daughter, was born Sept. 27th, 17 i%



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



7



and Noah, my father, was born September 20th, 1781.
James was born November 17th, 1788. My mother,
as I stated, was a widow when she was married
to my father. I never had any knowledge respecting
her first husband's relations. My mother's relations
were the Prophets, who belonged to the Narragansett
tribe, and resided in Cranston. My grandmother's
father was a man of note and one of the chiefs, and
called, Grandfather Jeffery. Whether he was a pro-
phet by name or by title I know not. He had two
daughters, but whether he had any sons I know not,
but think he had none. One of grandfather Jeffery's
daughters married a white man, preferring civilized to
savage life. The other daughter, my grandmother,
purchased a colored man and married him, by whom
she had five children, one son and four daughters,
John, Phebe, Mary, Alice, and Eunice. Her father
being very much displeased with her management,
gave his effects to the first, who married the white
man, and the fourth generation are living in the city
at present, and moving in upper circles. After some
years his anger abated towards his daughter's hus-
band and he rendered some aid to the family. My
grandmother said her father had a place where he
dug money. It belonged to the tribe, and was called
Old Blood's mine. No one except the tribe knew
where it was located, and could get none of the
money. By the request of my grandmother, her
father took grandfather, who was then living about
nine miles from Providence, with him to the mine,
When the time arrived, which was in the evening,
grandfather accompaned him, both being mounted



WILLIAM J. BROWN.

in.



and with saddle bags to bring their money
Grandfather said the road was filled with Indians
all the wav. After riding some four hours, they
arrived at a huge rock, and without saying a word,
dismounted, and walked around the side of the rock
until they came to an opening sufficient to admit a
single person. Jeffrey entered, and grandfather
followed. As they advanced the place grew larger
Jeffrey came to a halt, took a tinder box and struck

* Thty found themselves in a large place under the
rocks, and everything around them glittered witn
brightness. There were picks and shovels in the
place and other tools to work with, and Jeffrey
commenced digging and continued tillhe filled his bag
but grandfather, being frightened, did nothing. He
said he saw a large Indian with bis head cut and the
blood streaming from his wounds and the ground
seemed to shake under him. When Jeffrey had filled
his bag they returned by the way they came When
grandfather came home it was daybreak, and he said
he would never go again for all the silver there was in
the world, and he kept his word. Jeffrey said
be neither saw or beard anything The reason
grandfather saw it was because he did not belong to
the tribe. He gave a part of the silver to grand-
mother. She said the white people knew there was a
mine, and had searched for it but could never find it
At one time they got him intoxicated, then hired him
£ show them where it was. He carried them within
a f w rods of the place, and said, "It was somewher
around bere; it is enchanted ground, and you cannot



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



9



get it if you try." That was all they could get out of
him; but be continued to pay his visits to the mine
and bring his silver in to sell. This is the statement
grandmother and uncle frequently made respecting
the silver mine belonging to their tribe.

In the year 1842 I went to my grandmother, Chloe
Prophet's, funeral. She was buried from a meeting
house in Cranston, situated four miles from her resi-
dence and five miles from the city of Providence
There were twenty-six carryalls and wagons filled with '
her grand-children, each one containing four persons,
making a total of 104 grand-children. And that was
but a portion of her relations. This was the first
country funeral I ever attended. The services were
performed by a white minister. He represented her
as one of the sisters of the church, spoke highly of her
character and exhorted the people to take pattern
thereby, and told how the Lord had blessed her with
long life, to see the age of ninety-six years. After the
services the remains were placed in a nice, clean lead-
colored farm wagon, partly filled with straw, and started
from the meetinghouse about half-past eleven o'clock,
for the old Indian burying ground. The procession
moved in line, on a trot. After riding for the space of
half an hour we came to the turn of the road, where,
at the corner, we found a house and shop. The pro-
cession stopped, and many got out to get something to
drink. My sister remarked that she supposed that was
the fashion they practiced at the Indian funerals. I
answered, I presumed it was an ancient practice. A
great many were unused to this, and remained in their
carriages. After regaling themselves we continued



10



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



our journey, and by fast driving arrived at the ground
at half-past one o'clock. When we started from the
meeting house the manager, a tall Indian man, started
on foot. When we arrived at the ground he was there.
We found the grave all ready, and without further
ceremony, she was lowered into it. After she was
buried and the grave filled up, the manager placed a
large stone at the head, and said to the assembly,
" You all know where Granny is buried by this large
stone at the head ; now we will take our carriages and
go home." The burying ground was the most wild
and lonesome place I ever saw. I should think by
appearances that thousands of Indians had been buried
there. On our return home the stopping place at the
shop was not forgotten. When the procession stopped
I turned out of the line and continued homeward.

My grandmother was born in the year 1744, and my
mother°in the year 1771, making grandmother 27 years
old when mother was born. 1 have never been able
to ascertain the date of grandmother Jeffrey's marriage,
but learned that she purchased her husband from the
white people, in order to change her mode of living.
It was customary for the woman to do all the drudgery
and hard work in-doors and out. The Indian men
thought it a disgrace for them to work ; they thought
they did their part by hunting and procuring game.
The Indian women observing the colored men working
for their wives, and living after the manner of white
people, in comfortable homes, felt anxious to change
their position in life ; not being able to carry out their
designsin any other way, resorted to making purchases.
This created a very bitter feeling among the Indian



WILLIAM J. BROWN



I!



men against the blacks." The treatment the Indian
women received from the husbands they had pur-
chased was so satisfactory that others were encour-
aged to follow their example, notwithstanding
every effort was made to prevent such union. My
grandmother Phillis, on father's side, I know but little
about; I do not recollect of ever seeing her or
grandfather. I do not know whether she was raised
on a farm or came from Africa on one of the vessels
which brought slaves here. My grandfather being a
teamster she remained home to prepare his meals.
It was his duty to fill the demands of both farms.
He was allowed to send his children to school in the
winter season while young. In this way they learned
to read and write, but as soon as they were large
enough they found work for them on the farm,
where there was plenty to do. My father during
his youth worked on the farm belonging to Moses
Brown, and at one time had occasion to find fault
with his food, which displeased Mrs. Brown very
much. She was accustomed to save all their turkey
carcasses until they were musty, and then make soup
for the men. So every morning they were treated
to some musty soup for breakfast. Week after week
this was continued, and no one dared say anything
for fear of offending some one. One morning after the
horn had been blown for breakfast, father came in ad-
vance of the men, and looking on the table beheld the
soup and exclaimed, "Musty soup again— damn the
musty soup." Then to his surprise he saw Mr. Brown
partly behind the door wiping his hands. "What
did thee say, my boy?" said Mr. Brown. "I said



12



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



musty soup," said father. " Is that soup musty ?"
said Mr. Brown. "Yes, sir," said father. Mr.
Brown ordered a spoon, and tasted of the soup, which
he ordered to be put into the swill. By this time
the field hands had come in. Mr. Brown asked them
how long they had been eating musty soup. They
replied, " Several weeks in succession." Mr. Brown
sent for his wife to come into the kitchen, and said
to her in the presence of the men : " Is not my
house able to give my help good victuals ? Here you
have been feeding them week after week on musty
soup. I have tasted it ; it is fit for nothing but for
hogs. I don't wish you to give them any more such
stuff; they work hard and should have good victuals,
and I am able to give it to them." Then to the men
he said : " Why did you not speak to me about your
victuals? You have been going on week after week
and said not a word, until this boy had to speak for
you. Hereafter, if everything is not right, come to
me." After Mr. Brown's departure his wife called my
father a black devil, and said he should not sleep with
the men any longer, but should have his lodgings in
the attic room. This was quite a severe punishment
to my father, as he was compelled to retire soon after
eight o'clock. Mr. Brown was very particular that
his men should not be overworked, and allowed no
punishment on his farm. He was always willing to
grant his men leave of absence whenever they de-
sired. This made them the more willing to work,
and in seed time they were never late in getting their
crops in, so that when election time came the planting
was all done, and the last Saturday in June was set



WILLIAM J. BROWN 13

apart by the laborers as a holiday or election day. This
was an ancient custom got up by the farmers in order
to get their crops in the ground in season ; and the
workmen would work extra hours to get the planting
all done. They also made preparations before the
day came to celebrate it, procuring some suitable
place near a country tavern, making a contract with
the tavern-keeper to entertain them, and to give the
company a free treat at his own expense. After
that they had to purchase their own liquor. The
landlord agreed to get up a dinner for them, each one
to pay for his own, and at night to procure a hall for
them to dance in. The order of exercises during the
day was as follows : At 11 o'clock to form in pro-
cession for a march. This would take place immedi-
ately after they had elected officers. These officers
were a governor and lieutenant-governor and trea-
surer ; then accompanied by music they would march
up and down the road, after which they would retire
to the tavern and refresh themselves, then take up a
collection and dismiss until dinner ; after dinner they
would amuse themselves any way they choose until
the time for dancing. It was customary at this elec-
tion, if any one had any animosity against another,
male or female, to pay of their old debts by fighting'
During Sunday they would get sober, so they° could
return to work on Monday.

These elections were kept up annually, and the
colored people came from every quarter, anxious to
have a good time. Those who were pious did not
care about attending them. In the year 1832 the
people had lost their interest in having them. The

2



14



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



first check that the election had was through their
treasurer, who inquired of the governor what he
should do with the money. He was informed it was
to be given to the poor.

The money was locked up in a box and the key
was given to the lieutenant-governor. The trea-
surer at the close of the day took his wife and went
home. That night he laid awake thinking who the
poor were, and thought no one poorer than himself.
So he took part of the money and then nailed up the
box. The next night being again troubled about the
poor, he came to the conclusion that his wife was as
poor as any one, and took the rest of the money out
and nailed up the box. At the next election he made
his appearance with the box, and when it was unlocked
to their surprise there was nothing in it; and when
asked what disposition he had made of the funds he
honestly told them what he had done, and the company
wisely concluded not to take up any more collections ;
so that was stopped. The next and final check was in
1841. The people had appointed their election in
Warwick, or thereabouts. The day was beautiful and
the people had repaired there in good numbers,
anticipating a nice time. The landlord had given his
free treat, the officers had been elected and they had
made their parade, when a very dark man, mounted
on a horse, adorned with a belt and sword at his side,
introduced himself as General Amey. After riding
around lor half an hour, he ordered the hostler to put
up his horse. He then Walked up to the bar and
regaled himself; then walked around among the
assembled crowd, like some officer in authority, but



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



lb



finding no one willing to acknowledge him as bearing
rule over them, again went out and ordered the hostler
to get his horse, which was done according to orders.
After riding up and down the road another half hour,
he returned and again ordered his horse put up. His
orders were obeyed but not as pleasantly as at first,
for he either forgot to remunerate the hostler or was
ignorant of the customs of the times. On again de-
manding his horse the hostler kindly reminded him
that hostlers generally get pay for waiting upon gen-
tlemen. Gen. Amey replied, "Do as I bid you, and
bring my horse." The hostler obeyed, and he rode
away. In an hour's time he again made his appearance,
giving the same orders as before. The hostler agreed
to put it up, but told the General that he should not
again bring him out without pay. The General re-
ported him to the landlord, who told the hostler not
to put him up unless he was paid for doing so.
Shortly the General came and ordered the horse
brought out. The landlord being present, informed
the General that according to custom, the hostler must
he remunerated. The General declared he would pay
nothing. Some cross words passed between them, when
the landlord threw a half brick, hitting him on the
head. The General fell backward to the ground like
one dead, and the cry soon went forth that General
Amey was killed by the landlord. Much excitement
was created. The General's brother, Hardin, was in
the garden playing cards, when, hearing the report,
went like a madman after the man who killed his
brother. By the time he reached the stable the
General carne^ to, and the enraged brothers started



16



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



for the landlord, who seeing them, fled into the house
for refuge. They followed rapidly, and as the landlord
fastened the door they broke it down. He fled to a
second room. They broke that door in. The land-
lord then made his escape through a window, and was
joined on the outside by twenty men, who armed
themselves with sticks of wood. The two Ameys
proceeded towards the landlord and his men, who
dropped their sticks and fled towards the Pawtuxet.
Everything was in commotion. The table being ready
the people helped themselves, eating up the victuais
and drinking up the landlord's liquor. After they
had finished regaling themselves, they advised the
women to go home. They went after their apparel,
but the landlady refused to give it up, and called on
her help to assist her to keep the things, but they were
overpowered by the women, who took their apparel
and started for Providence. The men learning that
the landlord had gone after the Pawtuxet company of
soldiers, armed themselves with sticks of wood and
formed themselves in a line, and awaited the arrival
of the company. In a short time they heard the fife
and drum. The company came up and formed a line
in front of the men. The captain ordered them to
surrender themselves prisoners, but they refused either
to surrender or lay down their sticks. The captain
threatened to fire on them if they did not surrender.
They told him coolly to fire if he pleased, but it would
be the last firing he would ever live to do. The com-
mander withdrew his men and marched for Pawtuxet.
The people stayed around the tavern for some time,
then returned to their homes. For a week nothing



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



17



more was heard of the affair, or the landlord. Harden,
brother of the wounded man, after getting over the
fight, thought best to go and settle with the landlord.
He informed Mr. Halsey (for he was foreman on his
farm) what he had done, and thought it best to go and
see the landlord and make amends Mr. Halsey ad-
vised him to stay away, but Harden's convictions were
such that he went the following Sunday to see him.
He informed him of his errand, and was applauded
for his noble act. The landlord told him to be seated,
as it would take some little time to make up his
account. Mr. Amey consented to wait as he had no
pressing business. The landlord immediately dis-
patched a messenger on horseback to Pawtuxet, and
a large number ®f men sooh arrived, and locked
Amey up in jail. And before he could be released,
Mr. Halsey was obliged to go to Pawtuxet and pay
five hundred dollars to settle the case. That was a
death blow to the election. They tried several times
to revive it, but faileol in the attempt.



18



WILLIAM J. BBOWN.



CHAPTER II.

In the first chapter, I gave a short sketch of my
ancestors ; the place of their birth, the times in which
they lived, and some pleasing accounts of slavery
days in Rhode Island. Mr. Brown, ray grandfather's
master, seemed well satisfied with his help and
thought that although they were his property, yet
they had amply paid for themselves by their labor,
and hence wrong for him (being a Christian man)
to confine them any longer in servitude. Also Mr.
Knight Dexter had slaves, but entertaining the
same opinion concerning the system of holding
property in human beings, they both emancipated
them. This was some time before the general em-
ancipation in the State. My grandfather then drew
wages for his labor. He saved his earnings and pur-
chased a lot of Mr. Brown situated on Olney street.
They sold land at that time by the running foot. He
bought over one hundred feet in width of Mr. Brown,
and thirty feet of Mr. Carlisle, adjoining the lot he
purchased of Mr. Brown, and over two hundred feet
in depth. He dug a cellar and raised a frame of a
house, but before he had time to cover it there came a
storm and blew the frame down. Soon after, he was
taken sick, and the frame remained down. About this,



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



19



time father left Mr. Brown and hired himself out to
Mr. Thomas P. Ives, living on South Main street, in
the house where the old Providence Bank is. After
liviDg there some time, he took a notion to follow the
sea, and being 24 years old, obtained protection from
the Custom House, June 7th, 1806, and shipped on a
vessel, as seaman, bound for Liverpool, there he went
ashore. While walking on the street, he observed
several sailors running and dodging around the corner
of a street. He passed on not taking any particular
notice of them, but had not proceeded far, when he
was met bv a squad of soldiers, who commandered
him to halt. They asked him what was the reason
he could not go and serve the King. He answered
that he was an American seamen, belonging to an
American vessel lying alongside the dock, and as for
the King he didn't know anything about him. They
replied, " You don't? then we will make you know.
Fall in the ranks." He accordingly obeyed, and they
marched him to the guard-house. There he remained
until Monday forenoon without seeing any one, and
receiving no drink or food. On Monday the drum
and fife was heard and the guards appeared, unlocked
the prison, and ordering him to fall in the ranks,
they marched him down to the English privateer, and
there he remained until the ship put to sea. They
cruised about four or five months, and fell in with no
prize. One morning the captain came up, dressed
in full uniform, and told the crew that this day was
his birthday and he was going to celebrate it, and
they should have all the rum they wanted ; and he
ordered it by the bucket full, and they all drank as



20



WILLIAM J. BKOWN.



much, and as often as they wanted, serving it also to
the helmsman. The weather was fine, the wind was
light, and they were all enjoying themselves, but the
enjoyment was stopped, by the man on top crying out,
ship "ahoy." The second officer was pacing the deck,
and hearing the cry from the top, caught up the glass
and sprang up the rigging ; after recononitering the
sail he came down and exclaimed with an oath, " we
are taken." The captain hearing that announcement
from the second officer, drew his sword and asked how
he dared make that assertion; '* repeat it," said he,
" and will run you through." The officer exclaimed,
handing him the glass, " there is a Spanish launch
bearing down upon us." The captain took the glass and
surveying the launch, prepared to meet the enemy,
calling all hands to duty. Meanwhile a shot from the
enemy crossed the bow of our ship as a signal for them
to heave to, which they immediately obeyed, and re-
turned the shot. Both ships being in readiness, they
prepared for action. The engagement lasted but a
short time, as their ship was mounted with 1 8 pound-
ers and carried but two miles, while the Spanish ship
mounted 32 pounders and carried three miles. Soon as
the launch ascertained the power of their guns, they
withdrew to the distance of three miles, being out of
reach of the English ship's guns, and continued can-
nonading in perfect safety. The Englishmen not
liking their position, got under way, endeavoring to
make their escape. The Spaniards observing this
joined in the chase. The English ship made every
possible exertion, and set every sail that she was capa-
ble of carrying. The launch continued the chase,



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



21



and being larger, having more sail, and a good light
breeze, she sailed a third faster than the English- ship,
keeping up the firing at the same time, until a shot
struck the English ship below water line, which com-
pelled her to heave to and strike. The ship began
to sink, and the officers thought it best to leave the
ship and take to the small boats. They were soon
made ready, and all jumped into them except four, two
white and two colored men, who could not get in,
there being no room for them. They remained on the
ship's deck, the Englishmen promising to return for
them as soon as they arrived at the launch. The ship
settled so fast they became impatient, and father
told them that if they remained much longer they
would go to the bottom in the ship. They found
they had no time to waste ; they must either leave
the ship or be lost. Father's shipmate said he could
not swim, and they must save him or he must go
down with the ship. Father said he could not, as he
didn't know as he could save himself, as the launch
was three miles away and the small boat has not
yet returned and they would probably have to swim
all the way to the launch ; at any rate, they would risk
their fate, and they jumped overboard. As soon as
they reached the water the cook grabbed father by
the ankle, crying " Save me Noah, save me." Father
cried out, " let me go, I can't save myself." He kept
crying, "save me," until a huge shark swam along and
cut him in two ; he made one screech, his grasp was
broken and he sank to rise no more. In the midst of
the excitement, father gave one spring and found him-
self clear. He soon came up and passed the other men



22



WILLIAM J. BROWX.



and speeded his way towards the launch, and when
he began to get near the launch, the small boat
came up, and passing by father to pick up those who
were behind, he cried out for them to save him. The
men on board told him to continue on, he was doing
well enough ; they were going to pick up the other
two which were behind, then would return and rescue
him, which they did, and took them all safe to the
Spanish launch. After they were all on board, see-
ing the captain with his uniform on, they stripped it off
and threw him into the sea. He swam around the ship,
got hold of a rope and was climbing up to get in again,
but as he reached the railing, an officer, who was
pacing the deck, picked up a hatchet and cut his
hands off. The captain fell into the sea and was
seen no more. The English crew were alarmed, ex-
pecting to meet a similar fate,but the Spaniards treat-
ed them kindly. After arriving on the Spanish Main,
they were taken to a place called Dartmouth prison.
It was a one story building, a quarter of a mile or
more long, having attached to it a large yard, where
the prisoners could exercise. Every man was allowed
a seven foot plank for a bed, and a stone for a pillow,
and was compelled to work at his trade, if he had
any, and if he had none to learn one, for they all had
to do something towards their support. Father having
no trade, was permitted to have a choice in one to
learn. He chose to learn to braid palm leaf hats.
They learned him how to braid, sew and cover them.
After learning, he, with others, was given a daily task,
which if they accomplished, they were paid for all
over-work. Among other very unpleasant things in



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



•23



prison life was vermin, which troubled them very
much, so much that they were obliged to brush them
off each other every morning. A great many prison-
ers were confined there, and when their task was
finished they were allowed to exercise in the yard,
which was very large, and occasionally they were
allowed to walk down to the sea shore, but when the
gun was fired at sunset from the fort, every prisoner
must return to the prison, and the gates were closed.
When an} news was received that an English vessel
had taken a Spanish vessel, the officers of the prison
were cross, and would not allow the prisoners to go
outside of the gates. They were also very harsh,
and the prisoners had to be very careful when they
were so to attend closely to work and keep out of
the officers' way as much as possible.

Father and the shipmates who were saved with him
kept together and away from the other seamen. One
day, after completing their task, they went out to
enjoy themselves in the yard. Several officers were
seated, smoking cigars. Seeing his shipmate, who
was very limber, displaying his dexterity by walking
on his hands with his feet in the air, then rolling
himself in a heap and tumbling over, at the same time
calling father to see him, one of the officers arose,
walked up to the man who was tumbling, and with-
out saying a word drew his sword, cut off his head
and took his seat again as if nothing had happened.
This conduct greatly alarmed grandfather and his
comrade, so that they were more afraid of the officers
after that than ever, and they at once began to watch
for a chance to make their escape. Consequently,



24



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



they did all the over-work they could, and saved their
money to bribe some one who would aid them in their
plan to escape. Shortly after this, having finished
their task, they started to take a walk. Father being
ahead reached the gate first. Just then a man came
running past him and disappeared. He raised his
hand to open the gate when a man on the outside
with a knife stabbed him in the wrist, and was about
to give him another cut when father cried out. He
drew back and said, " You are not the man. I meant
to kill the man I was chasing." That was all the
apology he made for his rash act, and went his way.
The officer at the prison took father to the hospital,
attended to his wound, took off his clothes, washed
and dressed him in a clean white suit, and told him
to remain there until the doctor said he was well. He
said he was very sorry, when the time came for him
to leave the hospital and return to the prison, for he
had a good bed and plenty to eat, very much better
than his prison fare, and was free from those vermin
called lice, which were so abundant in the prison.

They continued their work until they had saved
up a good sum of money by over-work. They would
often go out and watch for a chance to make their
escape. One day while walking on the sea shore
they fell in with a ferryman, and in conversation with
him asked if there were ever any American vessels
in the harbor. He replied, " Yes, occasionally, as
Spain and America are on good terms with each
other." They told him they had saved the money
they made by over-work, and each had a small bag
full, and asked if he would row them across the river



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



25-



when the next American vessel came in. He said he
would, providing they would come clown and get
in the boat just, before the gun fired, lay down in the
bottom of the boat and cover themselves up with a
piece of canvas he would have for that purpose,
and he would be on the shore some distance
from the boat, pretending not to know anything
about it. After the gun fired he would come and get
in the boat and row over as fast as he could. He
said he would keep a sharp look out, and when one
did arrive, he would board her and ask the captain if
he would take the two men to America, telling him
they were prisoners of war and Americans by birth,
captured from an English man-of-war, and would find
out when they would sail so as to have them on board
the night before. In the meantime he wanted them
not to speak to him or take any notice of his boat,
lest they should be seen by some one, and suspicion
would rest on him when they were missing, but to
walk along the shore frequently, and when they saw
a stick sticking up in front of the boat, that would
be the signal for them to get in. This being agreed
upon they departed. Each day one of them would
walk on the shore, it being near the prison, covered
by a hill. Many weeks passed before the signal was
given, when one day to their great joy, they saw the
boat and signal, and sallying forth with their money
went to the shore, and walked around until it was
nearly time for the gun to be fired, then went in the
boat and covered themselves up with the canvas.
Only a few minutes passed when the gun was fired.
The boat man soon came leisurely along, got into his
3



26



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



boat, took his oars and rowed away. By the time he
had crossed the river it began to grow quite dark.
They went aboard the ship, and learned that she
belonged to Providence, and was commanded by Capt.
Olney, who, after inquiring their names, said to father,
" I am well acquainted with your father. He told
me when I sailed if I came across you to bring you
home." He told us to go below and keep out of
sight until he had passed the fort. His shipmate,
Major by name, was an Englishman, father to James
Major, now residing at No. 487 North Main street,
with w horn I had a very pleasant conversation a short
time since concerning his father being a prisoner of
war with my father, both of whom are now dead.
They had a pleasant passage, arriving safe in Provi-
dence, after losing a number of years in English
servitude. The English thought they had a right to
press any American seaman into their service. After
father's return he followed coasting, running from
Providence to New York on a vessel commanded by
Capt. Comstock. At that time England and America
were at war. Privateers were cruising around New
York, picking up any vessels coming in their way as
prizes, and it was very hazardous for vessels to sail,
as they might be picked up. Consequently, vessels
carrying two' six-pounders each would go in company
for each others' protection. At one time five vessels
left New York in company for Providence, and Capt.
Comstock was the second packet out. Father always
went prepared, having a big jug of rum and a bottle
of laudanum, so that in case they should be captured
to charge the rum with laudanum, and treat the



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



27



English seamen to a bountiful supply, knowing them
to be dear lovers of the article, and would have it if
any was found on board. And drinking of it freely
they would soon be unable to do anything. They
could then re-capture the ship, for he had no notion
of going back again into English servitude. He
had lost too much time by them already. It was a
pleasant day and a stiff breeze was carrying the
vessels along rapidly to their destined port when a
privateer hove in sight and saluted our commanders
very abruptly, saying, " Drop your main-sails, you
damned rebels, and come under my lee." The first
sloop obeyed the summons, but Captain Comstock
answered the salutation by saying, " Yes, sir, when
I have nothing else to do," and continued his course.
They fired but did not hit him, and not caring to
follow him and lose the other sloops, gave up the
chase, and captured the other three vessels. Captain
Comstock arrived safe in port. He was a fine man.
He was a neighbor and schoolmate of father's, and
seemed much interested in him.

Grandfather was now getting very feeble, unable
to do anything. He went on board to see father, and
the captain asked him, if his property was all paid
for and clear of all incumbrances. Grandfather said
it was. Captain then asked him if the deed was
recorded. He said he never had any deed ; that Mr.
Brown had often promised, but had never given it to
him. But Mr. Carlyle had given him the deed for
the lot he sold him. The Captain told him to go
and get the deed of Mr. Brown, and have them both
recorded. Grandfather said he would. Time passed.



28



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



and the Captain frequently asked father about the
deed. He also told grandfather again, but he was in
poor health ; was always going to get it, but never
went. Finally when the vessel was ready to sail for
New York, the Captain came on board about ten
o'clock in the morning, and said to father, " Noah,
has your father got the deed yet?" Father said,
" No." He said, " Your father is feeble — is liable to
drop off any time ; then it will be too late to
get those deeds recorded. Now stop your work at
once ; get your father and go to Mr. Brown's house
and see that Mr. Brown gives him his deed. You must
do no more work until you get that deed and get
them both recorded. Father stopped work, washed,
changed his clothes, and went and took grandafther to
Mr. Brown's house. When entering the driveway a
carriage drove in ahead of them. They went to the
house, ent ered the kitchen, sat down and rested
awhile, then sent word for Mr. Brown to come out ;
they wished to see him. Soon Mr. Brown came into
the room, and father told him what he came for, and
Capt. Comstock's anxiety about having the matter at-
tended to at once, so much so that he made him stop
his work; get his father and come and get the deed
Mr Brown -replied I have company from New Bed-
ford and cannot attend to it now ; you must come
some other time, and I will draw up the deed. It will
take some time to make one. Father told him he
was about to sail, and when he returned would come
again. Mr. Brown said it should be ready. Father
went back to the vessel and told the Captain about
the interview. He told him when they returned he



WILLIAM J. BJROWN



29



must attend to it. The next day they sailed for New
York and did not return for some four weeks, Dur-
ing that time, grandfather died. When the vessel
returned, father learned of his death and burial
Captain Comstock said he feared it would be so, and
"probably you will have trouble in getting the deed."
Father made no further attempts, but continued with
Captain Comstock until Fall ; then left the Captain
and went a voyage at sea. During his absence grand-
mother sickened and died, her daughter Rhoda took
care of her. Soon after her mother died, she was
taken sick and was cared for by her two daughters,
Ann and Lucy, but both being out of employ they
were without means, to get the things that were really
wanted, and as her condition required good care and
proper food she opened an account with Mr Angell
where her mother had an unsettled account at her death
Her health failed so rapidly, that Mr Angell thought
it best to look after his debt. After making out his
bill, he sent his son Robert, accompanied by Mr.
Peck, a butcher, to see Aunt Rhoda, presented his bill
and wished her to secure him on the land. They could
find no deed of the property purchased of Mr. Brown,
so she secured him on the lot deeded to her parents
by Mr Carlisle. Soon after this was done Aunt Rhoda
died. When father returned, he learned of the death of
his mother and sister. Mr. Angell told him what had
happened, and said he would buy father's share or sell
his own. Father told him he would think of it and
the subject dropped. Father married and settled
down, intending not to take any more long voyages,
but labor along shore or go coasting. He ploughed his
3*



30



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



land, and began to cultivate it ; and for several
years raised vegetables enough to supply bis family.
Mr Angell kept quite uneasy ; wanting to sell or buy.
About this time Uncle James, who had been absent
for a long time, returned home, and went with father
to see Mr Brown about the deed, as Mr. Angell said
he had bought the land (he, father, was occupying)
of Mr. Brown. He said that Mr. Angell wanted the
lot, and he let him have it. Father saidto Mr. Brown,
his father had paid for the land but had received no
deed, he came with his father one time for the deed
at Captain Comstock's earnest request, just before
grandfather died. A carriage drove in, with com-
pany from New Bedford to see you, you told us
to come again, you could not attend to it then. Mr.
Brown replied, " I recollect it but did not think
about it when I sold the lot ; now as your father
lived in my house for a good many years, I guess we
are about square ; but there is a strip, ten feet wide, I
will give that to you." And that was all my father
received. He then took Mr. Cato Green with him and
called on Mr. Angell, saying, " you want to sell your
strip of land or buy mine. He said, "yes." "What will
you give for my land," said father. He said, "twenty-
five dollars, and no more ; what will you take for
yours?" He said, "twenty five dollars." " When will
you give the deed?" said father. "As soon as you pay
the money," he said. Father drew his wallet, and in
Mr. Green's presence counted out twenty-five dollars,
and asked for the deed immediately. Mr. Angell was
surprised, not thinking father had the money. He
drew up the 4ee^, had jt duly executed Father took



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



81



it and gave him the money. Uncle James found so
small a strip coming to him, he gave it to his niece,
Ann Macklin, and she sold it to father He then had
possession of the thirty feet which grandfather bought
of Mr. Carlisle, and the ten feet which Mr. Brown gave
him by deed, making his lot forty feet wide and two
hundred and twenty feet deep. This was the land
which my grandfather once owned, somewhere about
150 feet in width, when he attempted to build his
house, now narrowed down to forty feet in width and
is that now occupied by brother George and myself.



32



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER III.

I have remarked that father moved into a house
called the Red Lion. This name was given to the
house because of its former occupants, which did not
bear a very good character. Providence being a com-
mercial place, always having a large amount of ship-
ping in port, consequently there was a large supply of
sailors, who could be seen at all times in the day.
In this locality there were a large number of sailor
boarding houses to accomodate them ; and for their
convenience there were very many grog-shops to re-
fresh themselves in ; and their numerous attractions
enticeing many lewd females. The house which my
father rented being located in the south part of the
town, near the water was a very desirable location for
such characters, hence it received the name of Red
Lion. It was a gambrel roofed house, covered with
planed boards like clapboards, and painted red. The
front of the house was towards Power street with
windows fronting the same. Seats were placed on
each side of the door, long enongh to seat three
persons each, with a back of wooden railiDg. A
pretty flower garden each side of the door made a
very tasteful appearance in the summer season. A
brass knob was also put on the door, adding some-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



33



what to the grandeur of the Lion. On the west side
was a door and two windows, one over the other, and
two doors on the north side, one leading into the cel-
lar, the other into the back yard, with two windows
the same as in front. The inside of the house was
arranged as follows : two rooms on the first floor, the
largest used for a kitchen, the other for a sitting
room or bed room. Adjoining us on the east was a
sailor boarding house kept by Mr. James Axum.
From our east window could be seen a fine garden
filled with various kind of vegetables belonging to Mr.
Axum. There were two rooms upstairs arranged
the same as below, having access by a stair-way in a
small entry three feet by six, on the north side of the
west room. When we first moved in we occupied
the upper rooms, until the family below could vacate
their rooms, which was some six months after we
moved in. Two rooms was considered quite a gen-
teel tenement in these days for a family of six,
especially if they were colored, the prevailing opinion
being that they had no business with a larger house
then one or two rooms. The family occupying the
lower floor of our house were considered the upper
crust of the colored population, Mr. Thomas Reed
by name, by trade a barber, and kept a fashionable
shaving saloon. They occupied the whole house,
using the rooms upstairs as a genteel boarding house.
He did not accomadate sailors, and thus regained the
reputation of the house, which had previously been
occupied and patronized by the lower classes. I well
remember what a change was wrought upon my mind
when we first moved into the house, having lived in



34



WILLIAM J. BfiOWX.



a short, narrow street, in the rear of South Main and
back streets, now called Benefit street. Wagons and
carriages seldom passed through, and very few per-
sons, except those living on the street. But from our
house we had a view of Power and South Main streets,
the last named, a general thoroughfare for carriages
and teams, and easy of access from either the north
or south side. We there had a fine view of the sail-
ors in their varied condition, the working men coming
and going from labor, and the men of note. We also
had a fine view of the beautiful waters of the Xarra-
gansett Bay, fairly alive with its ships, brigs, schoon-
ers, crafts, and small boats, sailing to and fro, thus
displaying a grandeur unequalled in any city of its
size. And in addition to these attractions, there were
two brass foundries, one located on the northwest
corner of Power and South Main streets, owned and
occupied by James Wheaton, the other on the south-
east corner of the same streets, occupied by Josiah
Keene. The work commenced at sunrise and con-
tinued until sunset, wiih the exception of one hour
for dinner. The continued sound of the hammer was
very pleasing to me, as children like music and noise,
and though but six years old, I felt that in compari-
son with the place formerly occupied, it was livlier
My. ears were gratified with the sound, and my eyes
with the sight. I was astonished to hear older people
say to mother when they called to see her, especially
her sisters in the church, " Why, sister Brown, what
a horrid situation you live in ? why, it is next in kin
to Babylon ; why you can't hear yourself think, let
alone speak." When you spoke to any one, you had



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



85



to raise your voice above the sound of the hammer,
or you could not be understood. In the Fall Mr Reed's
family moved out and father's family moved down
stairs, taking the whole house. He was responsible
for the rent to Mr. Tillinghast and other heirs, to
whom it belonged. It was forty dollars per year.
There being more room then he needed or could
afford to pay for, he rented the upper part for fifteen
dollars per year ; which reduced his rent to twenty-
five dollars. The landlords received their rents quar-
terly. Every one knew, in those days that a man
having a family of six could not pay the rent of four
rooms, unless he robbed or went on the highway to
get a living. If he intended io live by robbing, he
had only to keep a sailor boarding house ; for the
poor fellows when they came from a voyage, as it was
pro verbally spoken of them, were full of money as a
dog is full of fleas, generally fell a prey to the land-
lords and their accomplices. It was frequently the
case when they shipped for another voyage they
would go aboard in debt to the landlord. This prac-
tice was generally kept up, not only with sailors, but
with any one wishing to go to sea.

Many years ago there was one of those boarding-
houses and shipping offices at a house corner of South
Main and Transit streets, known as Simmons' board-
ing house. The landlord's name was Ambrose Sim-
mons. He had a large run of boarders; and any one
that wanted to go on a voyage, went to his place of
business. At one time, it was said a man from the
country took an odd notion to follow the sea, and was
directed to Simmons's shipping office, but just at that



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



3(3



time there did not happen to be any ships ready for
sea, so he took up his abode wth Simmons, doing odd
jobs as he thought for his board, filling the office of,
what is it called on shipboard, lob-lobby-boy. Whilst
being there, hearing the tales of the sailors numer-
ating the various hardships they had to pass through,
his ardor dampened, and he came to the conclusion
that he would not attempt to follow the sea. He then
told Mr. Simmons of his convictions, who in order to
catch him, coincided with him. Notwithstanding his
labor during the time he had been there, Mr. Simmons
calculated to have pay for the time. Soon after, a
pennant was seen floating from the top of a ship as a
signal that hands were wanted. Mr. Simmons soon
appeared on board, and completed the agreement to
furnish the amount. The day arrived for the ship to
sail, and Mr. Simmons addreesed his greenhorn, say-
ing, there is a ship going to drop down the river to-
day. I want you to go on board and help to get her
down ; and when the pilot leaves her, you can get
aboard of his boat and return; the fellow readily com-
plied, went aboard, got underway and stood down
the river. Having a good breeze, she was ready to
discharge the pilot, who took leave of his crew and
went over the side to his boat. The fellow cried out,
to the pilot, "hold on : I am going up with you. "The
captain answered, " Going up where ?" The man
replied, "To town." The captain said, "You are not
going until the voyage is up." The man said, " I am .
not going any voyage.'! " You aint going," said
the captain, "what did you ship for V " I have not
shipped, I only came to help get the ship down. Mr.



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



87



Simmons told me when the pilot came to get on board
and come up with him." The captain asked, " Have
you ever been to sea ?" He answered, "No; I came
from the country with that intention, but having
heard so much about its hardships, I gave it up, and
was going to return home." The captain said, " Mr.
Simmons has shipped you as an able seaman at $17
per month, and taken your first month's advance ; now
I can't go back after another man, and I don't want to
go to sea with one man short. Now I will put you
in the cabin as a steward and allow you $10 per
month, as you have never been to sea, and will
put the steward before the mast. And as you have
no clothes for that purpose, I will furnish you out of
the slop chest." And the man willingly agreed to it,
and went on the voyage and was gone some fourteen
months. When on their return home, the captain
said to the steward, " As you do not intend to follow
the sea, but are going into the country to settle, I
want you to play a trick on Simmons." The man re-
plied, " I shall never trouble the sea again as long as
I can stay on land." The. captain said, "Well, as soon
as you arrive in port, go to the counting room and I
will see the owners and settle with you, and I will
tell the owners what a trick Simmons played upon
you, and as soon as you receive your pay, go to Sim-
mons's office, tell him you have just arrived home,
and made out first rate ; had a good voyage, and you
want a suit of clothes from top to toe, and five or ten
dollars fur pocket change, and to-morrow he can go up
and settle your voyage and take out his pay that you
owe him for board that you had before you went to



38



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



•sea, and your suit of clothes." Ee told him he would
do it. So when the ship arrived in port, the captain
went to the Custom House to enter his ship. The
steward went ashore and to the counting room. The
captain soon arrived, and after stating the case of the
steward and Simmcns, the merchant immediately set-
tled with the steward, and he made his way to Sim-
mons's shipping office. Oa entering, he saw Mr*
Simmons, and saluted him, saying, "How are you, Mr.
Simmons ; I am safe home again." Simmons looked
somewhat surprised, when the steward said, "Don't
you know me ? I am the chap from the country that
came to your office to get a voyage, and as there was
no ships ready for sea at that time, I stopped at your
house and did odd jobs for some weeks, and you sent
me on board of a ship to help haul her down the
stream, and said I could come up with the pilot, but
I went the whole voyage, had a first rate time, and
have come home safe." Simmons grabbed him by
the hand, gave him a hearty shake, saying, " I recol-
lect all about it ; you see I have made a man of you ;
I am glad to see you ; you are going to stop here ?
ain't you?" The steward replied, "Certaily,I am.
Come, Mr. Simmons, let us have something to drink ;
come,boys, take hold." After they had had a drink all
round, those that were in the shop at the time, the
steward remarked, "Mr. Simmons, I want a new set
of sail; I must go and see the ladies; can't you rig
me out?" " Certainly, certainly; what do you want?"
The steward said, "I want a pair of blue pantaloons, a
vest, and jacket, also a light pair of shoes and stock-
ings, and a couple of handkerchiefs." He supplied



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



39



him with the whole. After dressing himself up,
Simmons said, " You. are a nice looking fellow."
Then said he, " I would like a decent looking hat."
That was readily furnished. He then called for some-
thing to drink, and two cigars, and then said to Mr.
Simmons, " Loan me ten dollars, I can't put to sea
with a swept hold." Mr. Simmons supplied his wants,
and bidding him good-night, he said as he was going
out the door, "Now remember, see to my voyage to-
morrow." Simmons replied, " All right ; I will at-
tend to it." The steward then started for his home
in the country, and that was the last seen of him.
Simmons waited till the afternoon of the next day
for the steward to appear, but he did not come ; and
he thought he would go himself to see about it. He
went to the counting room, and said to the merchant,
I have come to settle the voyage of a steward that
went in your ship." The merchant asked where he
was. Simmons said, " I don't know ; he went off
last night and promised to come to my office to-day.
I suppose he went with the girls, and became intox-
icated and has not got sober yet. When he left my
office, he requested me to settle the voyage, and I
have come for that purpose." The merchants asked
the steward's name. Mr. Simmons readily informed
them, and they said " he settled his own voyage yes-
terday afternoon, soon after the ship arrived ; we have
paid him every cent we owed him ; you can step here
and see his signiture to the receipt on the books."
Mr. Simmons was struck with astonishment. He in-
formed the owners how he had obtained an out-fit
from him, also borrowed the sum of ten dollars. The



40



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



merchants said they were sorry, but could not help
it. Many a poor sailor was taxed after that to make
up that amount. I relate this circumstance to show
one of the various ways that landlords practiced on
sailors to relieve them of their money, which was
downright robbery.

The house which was next to our's on Power
street was a sailor boarding house. There were two
more in the neighborhood. The ships were contin-
ually arriving and clearing, and made business very
lively. It was common to see boys with pitchers and
decanters going for liquors ; and this practice contin-
ued throughout my youth. After we had taken the
lower tenement of the house, mother said to me one
day, that it was my birthday ; " that I was born on the
10th of November, and was seven years old, audit was
commonly stated that the boy at seven years is old
enough to earn his own living, but, I think seven
years is too young, but I want you to remember when
your birthday comes." And from that day forth I
have never forgotten it. In the spring, some ladies
called at our house, and speaking about Sabbath
School, asked mother if she could send her children.
She said she had three that could attend, if there was
any one going who could see to them. Miss Wescott,
the lady living up stairs, and a member of the First
Baptist Church, with my mother, offered to take us to
school, which was to- be kept in the town house at the
corner of Benefit and College streets, and was to com-
mence atone o'clock and close at half past two, as the
church commenced at three. The Sabbath School was
something new, and the people had many conjectures



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



41



about it. At the proper time we left home, and arrived
at school. I remember being much pleased with my
nice clothes, and still more so, as I saw so many boys
and giils of all sizes at the school, all dressed so nice-
and clean, also some beautiful ladies and gentlemen.
I thought it one of the most charming sights I ever
beheld. Soon the school commenced, classes were-
made up, and whilst I was trying to see everybody
and hear everything that was said, some one tapped!
me on the shoulder, and turning round, a beautiful
lady spoke very pleasantly, asking my name. Miss
Wescott, who went with me told her. She wanted to
know if I was coming steadily. The lady said I was,
and said these children are sister Brown's. I came to
show them the way, and look out for them. She
said she was glad to have us here. Then she got some
cards and heard me say the alphabet. As I had learned
a good part of them from my brothers and sisters, I
was a good hand in lepeating the alphabet. The lady
came soon after, and brought some beautiful cards,
which pleased me much, and asked me to come next
Sunday. I told her I would. After the school closed,
I went to the first Baptist church in company with
Miss Wescott, climbing up three or four pair of stairs
to where the colored people sat. There I was carried
away with astonishment at being up so high, as I
thought, and seeing the people in the gallery and
down stairs, and the minister in the pulpit. I looked
until I fell asleep. I slept until Miss Wescott woke
me to go home. Cn arriving home I did not know
how to commence telling what I had seen and heard
and what I had passed through. My mind was era-

4*



42



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



ployed the whole week in thinking of that day, and
anxious for Sunday to come again. I continued going
to the Sabbath School and was delighted, more so
than at the church, as the school was more lively,
children and people were talking and whispering,
and they distributed pretty cards and books to the
children ; but at the church no one was talking or
whispering but the minister, and I soon got tired of
hearing him. After singing was over there was no
enjoyment for me, and I went to sleep. In the Fall I
waited anxiously for my birthday to come. I kept
run of the months and days until the time came, and
had the pleasure of telling mother that that was my
birthday. I was eight years old. That was the time
mother said a boy was capable of earning his own
living, in her opinion. I tried to make myself useful
by running errands and doing work around the house
that mother wanted done. I frequently went out
with brother Joseph, who was four years older than
myself. He was a stout, thick-set boy, and often get
into trouble with other boys. At one time he got into
a fight with a colored boy belonging to Mrs. Ayers,
from the south. He was taller than brother, but not
so stout built. What the fight commenced about I
could not tell. There were a dozen or more boys,
mostly white, encouraging them to fight. The boy
from the south was dressed very nicely ; the rest of
the crowd were very roughly dressed ; I think the
colored boy's dress must have excited them to jealousy.
After exchanging many angry and wicked words, to
the great joy of the crowd, for they all seemed to be
delighted, they soon commenced to fight. My brother



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



43



was too stout and heavy for the other boy, who did
not understand the science of fighting, consequently
got the worst of it, and becoming more and more
angry he said, "I will beat your brains out ;" and run-
ning back made a half halt, and bending over sud-
denly, came forward and struck such a blow with his
head that he knocked my brother over. Seeing his
success, he made another attempt, and came up full
force, but brother holding up his heels, his head came
in contact with them. This nearly stunned him, and
raised a shout from the boys. Mother hearing the
noise, came out to see what it meant, and learning
that brother was one of the combatants, she made him
go into the house. The boy coming to himself, was
nearly crazy with anger. It was impossible for the
people to calm him ; he kept crying out, " I want
that Joe Brown, the northern skunk." He tried to
force the door open to get into the house. Just at
that time, Mr. Ayers, his master, came along, and
perceiving the noise coming from his boy, hailed him,
and ordered him home. The boy calmed down at
once, and went home. Mother had a task to keep
brother in his place, as he was twelve years old, and
father was away to sea. Soon Mr. Eaton, a gentle-
man from Framingham, a relative of J udge Staples's
wife, wanted a boy, and hearing of brother Joseph,
came to see mother about him. He made an agree-
ment to take him a year on trial, for his victuals,
clothes and schooling, and he went home with Mr.
Eaton on trial fur a ysar. After he left home my ser-
vices were required doing chores around the house,
cutting wood, etc. This was before hard coal was



44



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



brought in use in Providence, and every one burned
wood, which cost four or five dollars a cord. The
small sticks were given to me to cut. About this
time some ladies opened a free school for colored
youth. One of the teachers in this enterprise was
Miss Eliza B. Gano, daughter of Dr. Gano, a Baptist
minister, afterwards Mrs Joseph Rogers. She inter-
ested herself very much in the colored people, in order
to secure the attention of the children, which she suc-
ceeded in doing, and the school opened early in
spring. It was located on Middle street, on the west
side of the town, and was taught on the Lancasterian
plan. I was large enough to go into the lowest class. A
semi-circle was painted in front of the teacher's desk-
When the class was called each scholar had to toe the
circle. It extended across the room and would accom-
modate some twelve children, who stood front of the
teacher to read and spell, the teacher remaining at her
desk. My class read from a large alphabet card; then
there was prepared for us a long desk with seats, on
top was a place one foot wide and one inch deep,
filled with sand. A piece of board was used to stroke
the sand smooth, then a copy of A B C was made for
the scholars to learn to write, using wooden pens flat-
tened out like a spoon-handle. Each scholar had his
own space to write on, 18 inches long and 12 inches
wide. When the space was filled each one had to sit
up straight, as a sign that we had filled up the spaces,
and the teacher would call a monitor to level the
sand and set another copy.

Thus the time during the interval was occupied. As
regards the other classes I knew but little. This school



WILLIAM J. BKOWN



45



continued six months. Near the close of the term Miss
Latham, the teacher, wishing to show the ladies who
employed her, and the parents of the scholars, the
progress she had made, proposed to have an exam-
ination. She selected pieces for the scholars to read
and speak on the occasion ; every class had a piece,
and I was selected from my cla.is to recite a piece,
and as I could not read, she taught me how to speak
it, and I have never iorgotten it. It was as follows :

" Who could expect one of my age
To speak in public on the stage,
And if I chance to fall below
Demosthenes or Cicero,
Don't view me with a critic's eye,
But pass my imperfections by.
Large streams from little fountains flow,
Tall oaks from little acorns grow.
Although I am but small and young,
Of judgment weak, and feeble tongue,
Yet all great learned men, like me,
First learned to read their A, B, C.
Let Rhode Island boast as great
As any other sister state.
But where the boy that three feet high,
Has made improvements more than I ?
These thoughts inspire my youthful mind,
To be the greatest of mankind.
Great, not like Ceasar, stained witli blood,
But only great as I am good."

After speaking my piece and making alow bow, I
descended from the stand, as I had been instructed to
do by Miss Latham. I spoke it to her satisfaction,
and the praise and admiration of all present, who de-
clared that I was to be a great man, and if the nec-
essary measures were taken, there was no doubt but



46



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



that I would be of great use to my people ; but that
was the winding up of this school. Preparations
were being made to open a school in the vestry of
our new meeting house, which was just finished.
This building was commenced in 1819, but for the
want of funds it was not finished until 1821, two
years after its commencement. Prior to this time, the
people had no place of worship of their own, and
were obliged to attend the white people's churches.
Some attended the Congregational church, Eev.
James Wilson, pastor ; some attended the Methodist
church ; some attended the Episcopal church, Dr.
Crocker, pastor ; a few attended the Unitarian church,
Eev. Mr. Cady, pastor ; and a large number attended
the First Baptist church, Dr. Gano, pastor. Some were
members of each of the above named churches ; the
largest number, however, were Baptists, and belonged
to the First Baptist church, but many attended no
church at all, because they said they were opposed to
going to churches and sitting in pigeon holes, as all
the churches at that time had some obscure place for
the colored people to sit in. Finally they came to the
conclusion to build them a house of worship large
enough to have the vestry for a school room. This
was eleven years after the Emancipation of the State
of Rhode Island, which took place in 1808. The Gen-
eral Assembly passed a law to the effect l; thatall who
wanted to be free, could secure their papers of free-
dom, but those who remained in slavery, if they ever
came to want, or needed assistance, they should be
maintaine 1 out of there owner's property, if they were
worth anything, before they could receive assistance



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



47



from the town." Most all the colored people took
their freedom, and secured their papers, except a few
old ones, who declared their masters had been eating
their flesh and now they were going to stick to them
and suck their bones. The colored people called a
meeting in 1819 to take measures, to build a meeting,
house, with a basement for a school room. After ap-
pointing their Committee to carry out their wishes
they sent a special committee to Mr. Moses Brown, to
inform him of their intentions and see what he would
do towards aiding them, knowing he belonged to the
Society of Friends and was a very benevolent man, be-
sides some of the members of the committee had been
in his service. Mr. Brown, after hearing their state-
ments, highly commended their movement, and
said, " I always had it in ray heart to help the
colored people, whenever I saw they were ready
to receive. Now go and select you out a lot, suitable
for your purpose, and I will pay for it." This so
pleased the committee, that they went to work in good
faith. They notified the different pastors of the several
churches, and called a meeting in the vestry of the
First Baptist church. When they were assembled their
object was laid before the people by Henry Jackson,
a young Christian gentleman, belonging to the First
Baptist church, and of high standing in the com-
munity. There were present at that time several
ministers of the Gospel, namely : Dr. Stephen Gano,
Dr. Crocker, Rev. Jas. Wilson, Rev. Mr. Snow, and
the pastor of the Methodist church. The statement
of Mr. Brown was made by the committee, and was
received by them, and steps were taken to carry out



48



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the project, under the directions of the other com-
mittee. The lot was selected, and Mr. Brown
purchased it as he agreed, and then conveyed the lot
to the colored people of Providence, and appointed
three feofees in trust, to carry out the object, namely:
his son, Obadiah Brown, Henry Jackson, and George
Benson. The house was finished in 1821. The com-
mittee lost some time in trying to find a teacher, to
instruct the school under the Lancasterian plan. After
searching in vain they procured a white gentleman by
the name of Mr. Ormsbee, to teach them. The school
was opened in the vestry, but not a free school, the
price of tuition being $1.50 per quarter. The colored
people sent their children and they soon had the
number of 125 scholars. I attended the school at
the opening, being the second school I ever attended.
The scholars behaved pretty well, and he read over to
them, at the opening of the school, his rules of order.
On the east side of the vestry there was a part which
had never been dug out and made level with the
rest. It was petitioned off, leaving a dark hole 20 feet
long and 10 feet wide, having a door that opened in the
vestry, and this door had a hole in the top, 15 inches
wide and 18 inches long. Whenever any of the
scholars misbehaved they were put in this hole. The
children were very much afraid to be shut up in this
place, for when they were digging the cellar they dug
up a coffin and a man in it. No one could tell how
the coffin came there. It was nearly consumed, but
they supposed it must have been some Indian that
was buried there. Mr. .Ormsbee was a very severe
teacher; he used the cowhide very freely. After



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



49



keeping the school for one year his labors came to a
close, and for a year and a half the school was sus-
pended, not being able to procure a teacher. Colored
teachers were very rarely to be found, and it was
difficult to procure a white teacher, as it was con-
sidered a disgraceful employment to be a teacher of
colored children and still more disgraceful to have
colored children in white schools. But there
was one gentleman who would take a few colored
scholars. His name was John Lawton, belonging to
the Society of Friends. He was a highly educated
man, and his school consisted of white and colored
scholars. His price was high, and very few of the
colored people could afford to send their children.

He did not keep school to accommodate colored
people, but for the sake of the money, and those
who attended his school, if they could be taught
anything, were always learned. My father, when
a boy, attended his school. He was celebrated for
teaching the Mariner's art. His scholars had given
him the name of 44 old Toney Latin," and he was
known by that name more than by his own. After
waiting a long time the Lord sent us a teacher, and
a preacher, Mr. Asa C. Goldberry. He was an octo-
roon, and many people took him to be white. He
rilled the pulpit on the Sabbath, and on week days
taught the school. He was here some two years, when
he got married and went to Hayti. Alter his depar-
ture we succeeded in getting a white teacher, and he
remained six months and left. The next teacher was
the Rev. Jacob Perry, a colored man. He preached in
the meeting-house, and taught the school, having the
5



50



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



same salary that the former teacher had. The school
was well attended by small and great. Among the
large boys was Jim Brown, well known among colored
people as the bully. He was about 17 or 18 years
old. Stephen Gibbs, Edward Green, Jerry Benson,
and half dozen more, were of the same grade. These
large boys frequently did pretty much as they pleased.
They held conversation with the teacher and seemed
more like his equals than scholars. In the fall of the
year, the boys were allowed an intermission in the
forenoon for a few minutes. The large boys paid a
visit to Mr. Dorr's orchard, and came to school with
their pockets filled with fruit, and would present
some to the teacher, and then commence eating it.
The small scholars would ask for some, and they would
tell them to go and get some for themselves, and when
asked where they got it, replied, in Dorr's orchard.
They continued going to the orchard during the recess,
for weeks, each time treating the teacher to some stolen
fruit, who said on receiving it, "you will get caught bye
and bye." The smaller boys followed the larger ones
to the orchard and I joined them. In going there we
got over the fence at the southeast corner. The large
boys had nearly stripped the trees in the upper end of
the lot, so we had to go down towards the middle of
the lot to get any. I had filled my hat nearly two-
thirds full, went back to the school, and gave my
teacher a share, which he took and put into his desk,
to eat at leisure. W hen I went home at night, I car-
ried some home to my mother. She asked where I got
them, they were so nice. I told her " in Dorr's or-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



51



chard." She asked if Mr. Dorr gave them to me. I
siid "No." She wanted, to know howl came by
them ; did I steal them. I said " No." She knew I
ha I no money to buy them., and if Mr. Dorr did not
give them, how came I by them. I said "all the boys
get them, and no one says anything, or troubles us."
She said k -the boys were stealing th^m, and would get
in jail, and I to, if I kept on going there." She told
me not to go again. I promised that I would not.
The other boys continued to go, and when I asked
for some, they would say, " You know where they
are, go and oet them." So on Friday afternoon I
thought I would go once more, notwithstanding I had
promised my mother only the Tuesday before that I
would never go again. I went during the recess,
found most of the trees stripp d, and I had to go
quite a ways down to get any. One of the boys dis-
covered a man coming and gave the alarm. I ran to
the southeast corner and climbed the fence, and there
saw the man crouched down ready to receive me. I
jumped back and ran to the northeast corner ; the man
not knowing which way I was going, stayed there
for some moments. I had scaled the fence, and was
making my way towards the school-house, when a
colored man by the name of Marquis, who lived with
Mr. Dorr, sprang for me, but I dodged him and made
my way for Prospect street. He followed on, and
when I reached Prospect street I turned towards
Olney street, and was leaving him far behind, and
would have got clear, but two men made their ap-
pearance, one of them, a cousin of mine, coming up



52



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



Prospect street, from Olney street, and Marquis ex-
claimed, " Stop that boy," which they both proceeded
to do, having canes, and I was compelled to give up.
Then I wished I had minded my mother and kept
away, but it was too late. I had stolen and the man
had caught me. When he came up he asked me my
name, now old I was, where I lived, if I went to the
school, how many boys there were that stole, and
what their names were ; and I told him the truth,
and how I came to go there. He let me go and I
returned to school. The schoolmaster said he ex-
pected I would get found out. That was all the
consolation he gave me. When I returned home, I
told mother the whole story, and she told me that
was the result of bad actions of wicked people. It
always led them to get found out and caught. I
was in a terrible state of mind. I knew I had dis-
obeyed my mother, done a wrong act, and now I
feared an officer would come and carry me to jail,
and all the next day, which was Saturday, I was
weeping, and if any one came to the house I thought
an officer was after me. But no officer came that day.
I solemnly promised that I would never be again
caught in such a wicked act.

It was a serious time with me on the day following,
(Sunday.) I thought of my crimes, and how wrong it
was to take that which belong* d to others ; so Iformed
new resolutions, and have kept them. Monday morn-
ing I went to school, and everything went on well until
ten o'clock, when to our surprise two constables came
in, took out a paper, and called the names of the sev-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



53



eral boys, requesting them to answer to their names.
The call was responded to, with the exception of
about six boys, who were absent, and those were the
large boys. The constables marched us by twos down
to Squire William Aplin's office. The large boys,
getting wind of what was up, kept out of the way,
and could not be found. We were all arranged in a
row at the squire's office. Mr. Dorr being sent for,
soon made his appearance, and after viewing us, asked
our names, our 'parents' names and residences, then
addressed us as follows : " Boys, you have stripped
most all my trees of their fruit ; you commenced as
soon as the fruit began to ripen, at the upper part of
my orchard, and you have cleaned up the trees. Now
I could put you all in jail, you are in my power. Do
you want to go there ?" We all answered, " No sir.'
He said, "If you continue stealing it will bring you
all to the gallows. One crime will lead to another
until you commit some desperate act. Now if I let
you go, will you promise to be good boys, never to
steal again, and attend to your school ?" We all an-
swered, "Yes, sir." Then he said, "I will forgive you;
never steal again." Mr. Aplin spoke, saying, "I want
you to recollect that your names are all on the town
book, and should you ever get caught stealing again
you will all have to go to prison. Mr. Dorr is a gen-
tleman, and has forgiven you for what you have done.
If he was like some men, you would be marched from
here to prison. Now you may go ; but remember,
never be caught doing such acts again." I don't
think any of the boys have practiced stealing since.

a*



54



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



It had great effect on me, and I have had no desire
to steal since. Soon after this happened Mr. Perry,
our teacher, got married and moved away, and we
could not procure a teacher for some time. I was
then about twelve years old, had learned to write a
good hand. The colored people, under the leadership
of Minor Hall, a Methodist man, formed a society, each
member paying into the treasury 25 cents a month.
This money was given to a committee of three to buy
lottery tickets, and as none of them could write they
took me into the society, promising that if I would do
their writing they would not charge me any fees, and
I should have a share of whatever they drew. I prom-
ised to do so. This practice was followed up, buying
tickets as fast as they could get the funds, but draw-
ing nothing, until they got weary of paying out and
getting nothing in, and gave it up. Afterwards, I sug-
gested to my comrade boys, to organize a society and
have a bank, each member to pay in six cents per
month until money enough was raised to purchase in-
struments to learn to play on. This suggestion met their
approval, and twelve of the best boys we could find
were selected for the purpose. There names were
Charles Cozzens, George C. Willis, Charles B. Burrill,
Isaac . Bowen, Jr., Samuel Brown, Daniel Wiley,
William J. Brown, Wm. K. Howland, Isaac Robinson,
George W. Gardiner, Caesar H. Gardner, and Henry
Banister. Afterwards, two more were received to our
number, James Gumes and Gilbert D. Gardiner; after
which we concluded to have a treasurer, and I was
chosen. We held meetings every Tuesday night, in



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



55



front of Rev. Mr. Edes's church, and appointed a com-
mittee to find a place where we could hold our meet-
ings when the weather became cold. A vote was then
passed that the boys who joined our company should
use no bad language and keep no bad company, also,
to keep ourselves from the company of boys whose
characters were not good, and if any of our members
were in trouble to do what we possible could to get
them out ; if any were sick and had no parents, to see
that they were cared for in some good family ; if any
got sick, whose parents did not reside in the city,
safely to convey them to their parents, and if any got
arrested and locked up, as soon as it became known,
to draw some money and pay for their release ; as they
had a law to arrest any one they caught in a row at
night and put them in the watch-house, and if no one
appeared before nine in the morning, and paid a
dollar for their release, they were carried to the work-
house for two weeks to pick oakum. And for a second
offence, and if no one came and paid their fines they
were sent to the work-house for four weeks, and re-
ceived two dozen lashes on their nude back, at the
whipping post. Soon after we were orginized, we
learned that a military company from Philadelphia
were going to pay a visit to our city, and were to be
accompianed by a colored band, led by Henry J ohnson.
We were very glad to learn this, as we had never seen
or heard a full band play, and did not know what in-
struments to purchase. By seeing them we would
learn what kind we should need. We had, what was
called in those days, a band playing field music, con-



56



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



sisting of a bugle, played by a man named Hamilton,
two claronets, two trombones, one French horn, two
fifes, one bass drum, and two kettle drums — eleven
pieces in all. This was the only band we ever heard or
knew of. The day arrived, and the company made their
appearance, bringing with them Frank Johnson's
band, consisting of twenty-six pieces. The company
was received by the Rhode Island Infantry, at the
steamboat wharf, on the west side of Carringtons
block, foot of Transit street. The Philadelphia com-
pany was brought up at the foot of Transit street and
formed, the Infantry taking the right of the line.
They marched up South 'Main street, led by Hamil-
ton's band of eleven pieces. The leader, a tall Irish-
man, possessed of more pride than wisdom. When
near Market Square, Johnson's band opened with
music such as never before, in my recollection, graced
the city of Providence. Eeaching the City Hotel they
dismissed and went in to refresh themselves. Some
of the gentlemen told Hamilton that he could not
begin to play with the colored band's leader. He re-
plied that Johnson's bugle was much better than his.
The gentlemen wished them to change with each
other, which they did. Johnson took his bugle and
beat him. This made him so angry that he struck
Johnson, and with an oath threw his bugle on the
floor. Johnson being the shorter and stouter man of
the two, immediately knocked him down. The people
were obliged to put a stop to the affray, condemning
Hamilton for.his conduct towards the former, and com-
mending Johnson for knocking him down, because



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



57



lie deserved it. The company finished their visit, en-
joying themselves very much, and accompanied by
their band were escorted down to the wharf and
sailed for Philadelphia. Our band learned what in-
struments were needed, and made arrangements to
purchase them, but the weather began to be so cold it be-
came necessary to have a place to hold our meetings
in. So we took our funds, and built a small room 10
by 12 feetr on Benevolent street, where Brook street
came through, on the south side. We bought a stove
and put it in to warm the room. We were now well
s ; tuated, and held our meetings once a week, although
we had no instructor. I had an inclination to visit
New York, and obtained father's and mother's permis-
sion from Capt. George Childs, commander of the sloop
Venus, to work my passage on and back, promising
when I returned to go errands for him whenever he
wished. I went on board the day before she sailed.
John Smith, the cook, a friend ot father, showed me
how to perform the duty of a steward. He took me in
the cabin and showed me how to make up beds,
(there being thirty two berths,) clean the cabin, etc.,
set the tables, which I did to their satisfaction, and
put things in good order, then went on deck and
helped to get in readiness to sail. We got under way
and cleared for New York, where we arrived after a
seven days' sail, being heavy ladened, with a light
wind nearly all the way. W e laid there three weeks,
then shipped a cargo and returned. While I was
away the committee found a white man willing to
teach school and hired him. Captain Childs took a



58



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



great liking to me, and wanted' me to live with him*
Father said he was willing, providing he would give
me my victual^ and clothing, and schooling one half
e.ich day, which he consented to do, but I was to
sleep at home. I went and liked very well. The
captain and his wife were very fine people. He was
tall, straight, good looking, and well dressed. She
was handsome and very kind. They had two chil-
dren a boy and a girl, Fiances and Gt-orge'by name,
thr« e and four year- old. My work was very light,
such as going on errands, etc. They had ju>t moved
into the upper part of a house corner of John and
Hope streets. We took our meals all at the same
time. I learned that Mrs. Childs formerly belonged
to a Methodist church, but being young and, gay had
neglected her religious duties, until she began to
think she never was a Christian. She soon changed
her mind and became favorable to the Universalist
religion. The captain was fond of amusing himself,
and as I was a dry kind of a boy, he asked me "what
I thought of the Universalist religion ?" I told him I
did not know much about them but some said that
everybody would be saved, let them be ever so bad.
The Bible says no man can serve God and man ; if he
clings to the one, he will hate the other. Now if
you believe all will be saved, I don't. You certainly
can't ; you swear too much. This pleased him, and
he began to tell the merits of the Universalists, and
asked "if I thought such a good being as God would
burn up people after he had made them." I answered,
"The Bible says the wicked shall be turned into hell,



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



59



with all the nations that forget God. I am satisfied to
believe what the Bible says." He could get no more
out of me ; so he left me. Mrs. Childs wanted a
cook, so she hired one from Newport to come and live
with her, by the name of Abby Young. Abby
thought because I was a colored boy that I was
was obliged to wait on her and mind her. She soon
commenced ordering me about. I obeyed for a time
to see what she was trying to do. at last I told her
I didn't come to wait on her, I was working for Mrs.
Childs. She threatened to report me. I told her I
didn't care what she did. So she then asked Mrs.
Childs if Bill could do what she wanted done. Mrs.
Childs said "yes, if you can get him to." I was listen-
ing, and heard the conversation. She came out and
said, "Mrs. Childs says you must do what I tell you."
"Yes," I said, "if you can get me to do it." She per-
ceived that I had heard the conversation, and stop,
ped troubling me.

When I was sent on an errand I generally took my
own time. When Mrs. Childs wanted an errand done
quick she would send me just before meal time. I
noticed mornings, when I returned, Abby would have
my coffee poured out and prepared for me, saying,
"•Bill, your coffee is all warm and ready for you." I
thought it very curious that she should be paying so
much attention to me, all at once, for I knew she set
no great store by me ; so one morning when sent on
an errand, I made good speed back, and as the kitchen
door was ajar, I peeped in, saw Miss Abby take the
children's coffee slops, after they had been playing



GO



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



with their fingers in it, pour it in a bowl, drop a little
fresh milk in it, and set it down by the fire. When
she got all through, I went in in great haste, and she
said, "Come Bill, get your breakfast, I want to finish
cleaning the table off." "Oh, yes," I said, and walked
to the pantry, and took a cup and saucer. When she
asked what I was going to do with that cup and sau-
cer. I said, "I am going to get some coffee." "Here
is your coffee," said she, "I have kept it warm at the
fire for you." I told her "I was not going to drink
that coffee. I was going to help myself out of the
coffee pot." Mrs. Child's hearing the noise, came
out to see what was the trouble. She told Mrs. Childs
what she had done, and I had refused to drink the
coffee. Mrs. Childs asked the reason why I would not
drink it. I told her that Abby had been in the habit
of pouring out my coffee, and I suspected it was not
done with any good intent ; so I hastened home, and
caught her pouring the children's coffee slops into
a bowl, then putting a little fresh milk in it, and set
it by the fire to keep warm for me to drink. Now if
I can't have clean coffee to drink I will go home. She
tried to den}' it, but I was looking in at the time and
saw her. Mrs. Childs told her not to trouble Bill's
coffee any more, and let him help himself to anything
he wants. At twelve o'clock Capt. Child's came to
his dinner. His custom was to remain home until
three, but he told his wife he must go back as soon as
he had finished his dinner. Mrs. Childs said, "why
must you go immediately back ; what is your hur-
ry ?" "I have $700 of the owner's money in my



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



61



pocket, which I intended to leave at the office, but
came in a hurry and forgot to leave it." "If that is
all," she said, "let Bill take it down.'' He said, "1 dare
not trust it with him, for fear he will lose it, or some
boy take it away from him." Mrs. Childs said ,'T11
risk Bill ; he won't lose it and no one can take it
away from him." So the Captain called me to come
and get my dinner right away, and get ready to go to
the office. She said "No ; let him go before dinner.
If you give him his dinner now, he won't return until
the middle of the afternoon." " If that is the case,"
said the Captain, "then start right away now, Bill."
Taking the package from his breast pocket, he handed
it to me, saying, " Now, Bill, there are $700 in this,
package ; don't you open it, or stop to talk with any
of the boys, but carry it right to Potter & Eddy's
store, and tell either of the firm that may be there,
that there is $700 in the package, freight money,
which I intended to leave at the store, but came off
to my dinner and forgot it. Now go down just as
quick as you can go." I answered, "Yes, sir," and
put the package in my pocket, starting off on the
run. In a short time I arrived at the store, saw Mr.
Eddy in the office, and gave it to him, also delivered
my message. He opened and examined the package
and exclaimed, " all right." I immediately started
for home. On my way back I commenced thinking
of the Captain's words, "go as quick as you can,"
but said to myself he never said a word about coming
back quick; now I am not going to hurry myself;
I am going to take my time, and ' I will break up
this foolishness. Pretty soon it will get so every time
6



62



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



they want me to go an errand they will send me off
before I can eat, so as to make me go and come back
quick. The fact is, the old woman is half right, its no
mistake, for I don't hurry myself when I get away
from the house, but that's neither here nor there. I
don't want to be sent off every time before dinner or
breakfast is ready, and I will not hurry myself back.
If they say anything to me when I return, I will say
to them you told me to hurry down there, and I did,
but you said not a word about coming back quick ; it
is a very hot day and T ran so fast that I took my time
coming back. I thought this would be a good excuse,
so I walked along leisurely till I arrived at William
street, looking for a good place to rest. Having crossed
Thayer street, I stretched myself full length on the
grass face downward, playing with the spears of grass,
until I fell asleep. How long I slept I cannot tell, but
not coming back as soon as the Captain expected, he
began to be uneasy, and went to the window several
times to see if he could see me coming, but as I had
not come in sight he said to his wife, " Surely, some-
thing has happened to the boy." She, too, began to
be alarmed, on account of my long absence, and said
1o him, " You had better go and see what has become
of him." He put on his hat and coat and started to
look for me. Coming up William street, he discov-
ered me lying prostrate on the grass, and putting his
foot on my back shook me, saying, "Bill." I awoke,
and at first could not tell what was shaking me.
He again shook me saying "Bill, Bill." I knew his
voice, and with alow, grumbling sound, said, "Be still,
be still." " Are you asleep," he said. "No sir. be



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



68



still." He said, "What are you doing?" "Listening,
listening." " Listening for what," he said. I an-
swered, "To see what plants are coming up here next
year." Not understanding what I said, I raised up
my head and said, "To see what plants are coming
up here next year." He burst into a laugh, and said,
"What have you done with the money." "Oh, I carried
that long ago, and he said it was all right." The Cap-
tain said, "If that is so, listen on, then," and left me to
go to the vessel. I jumped up and went home. Mrs.
Childs asked me where I had been so long, and if I
saw the captain." I said 4< I had, the money was all
right, and I stopped to listen." She asked what I
stopped to listen for? I said, "Oh, nothing more than
I wanted to see what plants were corning up next year
among the grass." She said, "Bill you are a curious
genius, go eat your dinner." I did without a second
bidding. Shey took care never to send me again be-
fore dinner. During my stay there, Mrs. Childs had
a son, and they called his name Edwin Forrest. The
captain's mother, who resided in Warren, came and
stayed three months, during Mrs. Childs's illness. She
was getting ready to go home, and was to leave the
following Monday morning. The Sunday before she
was to leave we were all sitting at the breakfast table,
with an addition of two extra ones — Captain Childs's
brother Nathan and Mrs. Childs's sister Jane. The
Captain was telling about a new play they had in New
York, with which the people were much pleased, de-
scribing it, to give them an idea of the play. It had
been played two or three weeks in succession. The
Caotain's mother was an elderly lady, and listening to



64



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the description the Captain had given, exclaimed, "I
would like to see that play." Mrs. Childs said, "Why,
Bill knows a song about Cold Black Rose." The Cap-
tain said, "Do you know that song, Bill?" I replied,
"yes sir." The Captain said, ''well sing it for us."
I told him I could not sing it, that the day was Sun-
day. He replied, "what of that ; there is no barm in
singing it. I answered,"I do not sing songs on Sun-
day for anybody." The Captain's mother said, "Now
you will sing it for me, Billy." I told her, yes ; I
would sing it for her on the morrow. She said "I
am going away to-morrow morning early, and I want
to hear it to-day." Then I answered, " you will not
hear me sing it, for I am not going to sing songs on
Sunday for any one, whether they are pleased or
displeased." Captain Nathan offered me half a dollar
to sing it. I told them they needn't ask me any
more, for I would not break the Sabbath to please
any one. They could neither coax or hire me, so they
ceased troubling me. The baby was now six or seven
months old. Mrs. Childs said to me one day, "I have
ousiness for you this summer." I asked what it was.
"To take care of my baby and rock it in the cradle."
"Very well," I replied, thinking all the time that I was
not going to rock anybody's baby. Abby had gone
on a visit to Newport, so the duties of washing the
dishes and cleaning fell to me. The next morning
after breakfast and I had done up all the work, Mrs.
Childs came in and said. "I am going to get the baby
to sleep, and lay it in the cradle, and I want you to sit
by it, and if he wakes up, rock him ; I have got you a
book to read, Bill, while you sit by the baby." I said,



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



65



"yes ma'am." She knew I was fond of reading, and
brought the book to interest me. Her son George was
a mischievous boy and did pretty much as he had a
mind ; no one could do anything with him but myself,
and I expected the baby would be much the same in
regard to behavior, and if I had anything to do with
him I would break him of those bad tricks , While
Mrs. Childs was getting him to sleep, I slipped down
the back stairs, cut me a stick about fifteen inches
long, and shaved down all the knots, so as to make
it perfectly smooth, repeating the words which my
father used when preparing sticks to whip me and my
brothers with, for not obeying him, " I will smoothe
these knots down for I am not going to tear your hide
but tingle it." After preparing my stick, I ran it up
my sleeve, and went in to take charge ot the baby
She placed a small rocking chair by the side of the
cradle, and I took the book and watched Mrs. Childs
to see what she was going to do. She fixed her hair
before the glass, and said, " I am going down stairs
to see Mrs. Burr, the lady living on. the first floor.
After she went out, I commenced reading and con-
tinued reading for an hour and a half, while the baby
slept and came to a very interesting part of the story,
when the baby awoke. I rocked him and tried to
get him to sleep again ; the more I tried to soothe him
the worse he acted. I said to myself, he has got to be
broken of this, and I might as well begin, or he will
be like the other childien, and wouldn't mind any one ;
so I began scolding him. That made him still worse.
I turned down the covering, took my stick, and put
it on to him. He kicked and hollored. I heard Mrs.



66



WILLIAM J. BKOWN.



Childs's step on the stairs, and I ran my stick up my
sleeve and began to coax him. She came in and
asked me what the matter was with the baby ? I re-
plied, the "dear little creature is afraid of me, I think."
She said, "I guess not." I said, "Oh, I guess he must
be, for lam black you know, and he ain't used to me."
She said, "Well, he has got to get used to you"; and
taking him out of the cradle said, "you may go out
now, Bill." The next day I was called again to the
cradle. The babe after sleeping awhile, began again
to kick up and holler. I didn't coax him much ; but
gave him a little dressing down, and after awhile he
got easy. Soon after Mrs. Childs came and relieved
me of my charge, saying, "he didn't act so bad to-day
as he did yesterday." I replied, "no ma'am ; I guess
we will bring him to." The third day I was called
on duty again. When he awoke I shook my stick
and spoke to him. He began to snuffle, so I gave
him two or three cuts on the quilt, he opened his
eyes, looked at me, as much as to say, do you mean
it? and soon became calm. When Mrs. Childs got
ready, she came up stairs, and looking in the cradle,
beheld the baby wide awake, playing with his fingers.
She exclaimed, "Why Bill, you have got this baby
so that he likes to lay in the cradle. I guess he
loves you." "Oh, yes" I said ; "I have not the least
doubt but that he loves me." I had no occasion to
use the stick any more, and Mrs. Childs had no occa-
sion to get him to sleep. I would say to her, "Lay
him in the cradle, I will take care of him." She did
so, and if he began to make a noise, I would shake
mv finger at him and that would be sufficient. When



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



«7



she had him in her lap, and he made any noise, she
would call me and I had only to take him, or speak to
him, and it was all over, he would be silent. She often
told her company, when they called, how attached
the baby was to me. He turned out to be the best child
she had. When he was 18 months old, she took a
notion to go to New York with her husband. I heard
them talk about going, and say, "we must have Bill
go by all means." I did not care to go. They asked
me if I would like to go to New 1'ork. I said I
would not. I asked if Abby was going. They said
she was, but they wanted me to go because I could
manage the baby better than any one else. I told
her 1 had no clothes suitable to wear. When the
Captain came to dinner, she told him? what I had
said. The Captain called me and wanted to know
the reason I could not go. I said, the first was, I
didn't want to, and the second I had no suitable
clothes to wear. He was very crafty and knew just
how to take hold of me. He said "Bill, when you
wanted to go to New York, I let you go to accommo-
date you, and treated you well, did 'I not?" "Yes,
sir," I replied. Now Mrs. Childs wants you to go
to aceommodate her, because the baby loves you,
and you can get along first rate, and I want you to
go because Mrs. Childs wants to be accommodated ;
one good turn deserves another, does it not ?" I said,
"Yes, sir." " Won't you go with us to New York."
I said, "yes, sir, providing you furnish me with some
nice clothes, to go with ; I don't want to disgrace
myself." He said, "go down to Joseph Mason's shop
and tell him to take your measure for a pair of calf



08



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



skin square-toed shoes , what else do you want?" "I
want two or three pair of white socks, and two pair
of pantloons, two vests and two jackets, and a new
hat, and a fife." The Captain said, "Anything else?"
I told him "no sir." He said, "get yourself ready, for
we shall go in ten days ; and I will have your things
for you." I went that same afternoon, and got meas-
ured for a pair of shoes. They got all my things for
me except a hat and fife ; he said he would get them
in New York, and asked it that would satisfy me.
I said it would. When the time arrived we went on
board, about ten o'clock in the morning. When we
were well under way, I said, in the presence of Abby,
"I expect to be sick." She said, "don't you go to
being sick ; Mrs. Childs and myself are going to be
sick, and you have got to take care of the baby." I
wanted to find out what they intended to do, and
that was just what I wanted to learn. The day was
beautiful, and I walked about enjoying myself until
about five in the afternoon. I then went down and
got into one of the lower berths, and laid with my
shoes sticking .out of the berth. The Captain came
into the cabin, and noticing my feet, said to the
steward, " whose feet are those sticking out?" He
said, "your Bill." The Captain said, "what is the
matter, Bill?" I told him I was sea-sick. He said,
"take your shoes and put them under the berth, if
that is the case." I obeyed, for that was what I
wanted. I had no trouble with the baby during tne
passage. When we arrived in New York, I did not
forget to speak to the captain about my hat and fife.
The next day the captain went up into the city and



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



69



bought a white fur hat, which he paid four dollars
and a half for. I told him I did not want a white
hat. What a curious taste you have said he. He
told Jack, the cook, to go with me, take the hat back,
and let me select one for myself. The next day Jack
and myself went to the store, and 1 selected a hat to
suit my taste ; the price was $1.87. On my return
the captain asked if I was suited. I said, "yes, sir."
He laughed when I told him the price. The next
was my fife, which I spoke of to him. He asked the
price. I said one that would cost $1.50 would an-
swer. He asked if I was willing to take round a
paper and get it by subscription. I told him I had
no objections. He drew one up, which read as fol-
lows : "The bearer has came to the conclusion that
he is blessed with a musical talent, and desiring to
obtain an instrument suitable to his taste, and not
having the means to obtain one, is obliged to call on
the public to accomplish his object, and if ever he
should be caught in the war, he will endeavor to con-
sole and comfort the wounded by his melodious
notes." He then signed twenty-five cents, and gave
me the paper. I handed it to Captain George Brown
first. He asked me if Captain Childs drew up the
paper. I said, "yes, sir." He laughed and signed his
name and gave twenty-five cents. I passed it around
to several of the captains. They all gave me some-
thing. I ended with Captain Nathan Childs, who,
after reading the paper, said, " come into my cabin
about eight o'clock to-night and bring your paper. I
am going to have company there this evening. We
will see what we can do for you." I told him I would.



70



WILLIAM J„ BROWN.



In the evening I went to his cabin There was a
large company of gentlemen and ladies present.
They read my paper, passed it around, and then laid
it on the table. They wanted me to sing a song. I
noticed a storm coming up, when I went on board. I
sung a song, and it commenced to rain hard, I felt
anxious to go, but they asked me to sing another, and
another. When I was in the middle of a song, there
came a heavy clap of thunder, and it lightened very
sharp, which so terrified me that I stopped singing.
They wanted me to continue singing. I told them
I could not sing any more. They tried to persuade
me, but I said no, and was about to go back to my
shop, without stopping for money or anything else.
They saw how scared I was, and made up the
amount of four or five dollars for me. I went to
our sloop, and was enabled to purchase my fife fou
$1.25. We started for home in a few days, where
we arrived in safety. Abby went home to stay
awhile,* and a portion of her work was assigned
to me, such as setting the table, washing up dishes,
etc. Whilst doing that, I thought I would examine
the closet, and see what I could find by way of good
things. I could not discover anything but a little
loaf sugar and a demijohn. I found it nearly full. I
poured some out and found it was liquor. I helped
myself to some and put it back again. After finish-
ing my work I took another taste of it. I under-
took to get my wood for the night. I began to feel
very happy, and began to sing. I brought an armful
up, but part of it fell down stairs. The noise it
made brought Mrs. Burr to see what the matter was.



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



71



I apologized for the noise, saying I accidentally
dropped some wood. The next armful I dropped some
wood again. This brought Mrs. Childs to the head
of the stairs. She discovered that something was the
matter with me, and asked me if I had been drinking
any liquor. I told her I had been tasting a little.
She told me I had better go home. I remembered
hearing people say that when a person was intoxi-
cated, if they ran fast, people would not notice it.
I came out the rear door, and started on the run for
William street; got home as soon as possible and
went to bed ; was sick all night. In the morning I
got up and went to my work, feeling bad enough and
ashamed, for I knew they must have seen me when I
was going home. I determined never to be caught
so again.

When I reached the house in the morning, Mrs.
Childs told me to go down in the kitchen and make
a fire, as the woman was coming to wash, I was
busy in making my fire, when Mr. Burr, the gentle-
man that lived in the lower tenement, put his head
in the door and said, " Take care, Billy, don't let the
fire get down your throat, and don't get too near, for
your breath may take fire." Then I knew that they
had all seen me, so I braced myself up and prepared
for the worst. At the breakfast table Capt. Childs
took me to do, saying, " Bill, I have heard some very
bad news about you, and am very sorry to hear it. I
thought you was very pious awhile ago ; we tried to
coax and hire you to sing ' Cold Black Rose ' to my
mother ; you would not because it was Sunday.
Mother was going awav Monday morning, and she



72 WILLIAM J. BROWN.

wanted to hear it very much, and you would not
gratify her nor Mrs. Childs nor me, and my brother
Nathan tried to hire you, and you wouldn't, because
you was so religious. And you are running down
Universalist people, thinking you are better than
they are. Now, I understand, last night you was so
drunk you could not walk straight. I don't think
your religion is as good as Universalist religion, and
I am ashamed of you ; ain't you ?"

I said, " Yes, sir, I am so devilish ashamed 1 don t
want to hear any more about it, and I ain't going to
do so again." This set them all to laughing and they
didn't trouble me any more about being drunk.
That act had a good influence upon me, for I then
saw the folly of becoming a slave to liquor.

Our school was again broke up, the teacher moving
from the city. My father said he wanted me to get
through my studies, my progress was too slow, going
only half a day. He wanted me to go all the time,
of course I had to leave my place for that purpose.



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



73



CHAPTER IV.

By the request of my father I left Captain Childs
and made preparations to go to school regularly, until
I should complete my studies. The following week
I entered Mr. John Lawton's school, kept in the brick
school-house on Meeting street. He occupied the
lower room in the building, and kept a private school,
lie had kept there for many years, and was called an
excellent teacher, but his health was so feeble that
he was unable to continue his school more than two
quarters after I entered. He then broke up and went
to live with his son in Newport.

The next man that took the school was Mr. John
G. L. Haskins, a white preacher in the Methodist
Church. In his school I began to cipher, using
Daboll's Arithmetic. It was a hard study and re-
quired a strong mind and a clear head to master it.
Father told me that if I paid for my own schooling,
and wished to stop a d ay or two, I could do so ; but
if he paid it, I must go every day so as to finish my
studies and go to work. I preferred to pay for my
own schooling, which was three dollars a quarter. I
also joined the evening class, paying one dollar and
fifty cents a quarter, and twenty-five cents for ink
and pens, which the teacher supplied us with. When



n



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the money for the quarter became due, I had no
money to meet it, and told the teacher that, having
no money, I thought I had better stop. He said I
was improving very fast and had better keep on with
my studies, as I was in the first class, and used an
English reader and Walker's dictionary, which I was
to purchase as soon as I could get the means, as I had
to borrow. My friend James Gumes, a lad much
vounger than myself, also owed for a quarter's school-
ing. Mr. Haskins was anxious to have us continue
in the school, and he gave us a job of sawing wood
to encourage us. We got our saws sharpened by
James's uncle for nothing, for he wanted to help us.
The wood was walnut, and hard to saw. It was cold
winter weather and the wood was covered with snow,
and James got very sick of his job, and declared he
would never saw wood for anybody any more. I
had to saw a greater part of the wood in order to
finish it. But it was no difficult task for me as I had
been accustomed to saw wood ever since I was eight
years old.

The second quarter became due, and I had not
paid my first quarter. James was also in arrears.
We made up our minds to leave, but Mr. Haskins
coaxed us to stay, and still continued to dun us, say-
ing: '-Can't you bring me a little this afternoon?" I
would tell him I had no possible prospect of getting
anything, and had better stop coming. But James
was very tender-hearted, and would say : "I don't
know, I will try ; " and that kept him always dun-
ning us. My bill had run up to two quarters day
schooling, and three quarters night, and money also



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



75



for ink and pens, in amount eleven dollars and
twenty-five cents. I had no means of paying this,
and I wanted books and a pair of shoes. I made up
my mind to stop.

The next Monday I expected he would tease me
again for the money, and I asked mother to lend me
some. She told me to go to father, for she had no
money. I was ashamed to do this, because I had un-
dertaken to pay my own way. My bill got so large
that cousin Lydia, who was staying at my house,
asked mother if she had twenty-five cents ; if so, give
it to "William, and she gave me twenty-five more, say-
ing, " Go and buy a ticket as you go to school." I
stopped at Mr. Baker's lottery office and purchased a
ticket. Everybody bought tickets at that time, as it
was very fashionable. The teacher again asked for
money, but I hadn't any. I continued going to
school until Thursday morning, when he talked so
pitiful, I told him I would try and get some in the
afternoon. At noon I made my teacher's wants
known to mother, and she said, " You ought not to
have undertaken to pay for your schooling; you must'
go to your father." Not being able to raise any, I
started off toward the school-house. I hardly knew
whether it was best to go or not, or what I should
tell him. I passed Mr. Baker's lottery office and cast
my eyes in. Thinking I had better go in ; perhaps I
might have drawn a little something, I went, and
asked Mr. Baker what my ticket which I had pur-
chased Monday had drawn ? He said, " What was
the class, and what the numbers?" I told him, and,
looking over his books, said, " You little skunk, you



TO



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



have drawn seventy dollars, where is your ticket? '
I told him it was at home, and I would get it, which I
quickly did. I gave it to him, and he gave me the
money, taking out the draw-back. I then went over
to Mr. Wilcox's store and purchased an English
Header, a Walker's Dictionary, one quill, a nice pen-
knife, a plated-top ink stand, a sand box, a quire each
of blue, pink, yellow and white paper, and a box of
wafers. Having them all done up, I went to the
school-house. I opened my packages, took out the
things I had bought and put them in my box.

Mr. Haskins came up to my desk, saying, " Well,
Billy, you have made a raise." I replied, " Yes, sir."
He said, " Have you brought me some change ; cant
you spare me a little." I answered, " Yes, sir ; make
out your bill in full." Mr. Haskins immediately did
so. He then asked, " How much shall I credit you
with ?" I said, " Receipt the bill in full," at the same
time taking out my pocket-book I had purchased.
He stood amazed, and looked at me a few moments,
and exclaimed, " Where did you get so much money ;
I hope you have not got it wrongfully. I would
rather give you your schooling than have you take a
cent wrongfully." Every head was raised, and every
eye in school was on me, waiting to hear my reply.
I very coolly and deliberately answered, " Oh, no, sir,
I think myself above that." " But," said the teacher,
" where did you get it ?" After hesitating a few mo-
ments, I explained how I came by the money, which
relieved him very much. I then made up my mind
that for the future I would try to keep out of debt,
and to search around to find some jobs to do between



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



77



school hours and on Saturdays, to enable me to finish
my studies, and learn some kind of a trade. The
next day I had a call to saw and split two cords of
wood for Capt. Harding, commander of a Philadel-
phia packet. It was at his house on Bridge street, in
the lower part of the town. I agreed to do the work,
and commenced the next morning, as he wanted the
work done before he sailed. I thought I would give
my friend James Gumes a chance to earn a little
money, so that he could pay his school bill. I called
on him and told him the job I had got, and asked
him to help me, and he should receive half of the
money. His mother was very glad that I called on
him, and said, "You are not like some boys, that wish
to get everything themselves, and don't care about
their neighbors. You have got a good principle in
you, and I hope it will always continue ; for in help-
ing yourself, you always like to help others." Grumes
agreed to help me. I told him to be ready at five
o'clock in the morning, and I would call for him, and
at seven o'clock we would go home to our breakfast.
I told him it would be a very warm day, and we must
do as much as we could in the morning. It was then
in the latter part of June. I called the next morning
little before five o'clock. Gumes was not up. ,1
knocked at the door, and aroused him up. He was
inclined to wait until after breakfast before he went.
I was opposed to that, and told him he must save
time as much as possible, for the man wanted his
work done as soon as possible, and if we didn't do it
he would get some one else, and losing half an hour
or so would put us back ; so we commenced on our



78



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



work. About half-past six Gumes got hungry, and
said he couldn't work without having something in
him to work on, and it was with great difficulty that
I could get him to work until the clock struck seven.
Then we stopped work and went to breakfast, agree-
ing to return at a quarter before eight, taking three-
quarters of an hour for breakfast. I had twice the
distance to go that he had to reach home. I ate my
breakfast and returned to Gumes's house ; he had not
had his breakfast, and I was delayed again, and it
was half-past eight before we got at our work again.
We worked on until the clock struck ten, when Guraes
had to stop and get some water. After an absence
of a quarter of an hour he returned. At half-past
ten he went again. When he returned he worked for
a quarter of an hour or so, and commenced complain-
ing of the heat, and said he was never going to saw
wood in the summer time again for any one.

I said to him, " Last winter you said you was not
going to saw wood for any one in the winter, and
now you find fault with the summer. I see that you
are not used to sawing wood. Now as soon as the
clock strikes eleven, you had better knock off and go
to splitting the wood— I will finish sawing it," for I
had come to the conclusion that I would have nearly
all the sawing to do. He, commenced splitting. I
finished up the sawing at about two o'clock. We
were getting along so fast we thought we would not
go to dinner, but finish the job. Our work was com-
plete by five o'clock. We went into the house to re-
ceive our pay. I said to Gumes, « I don't want you
to say anything at all, I am going to do the talking,"



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



79



and he agreed not to interfere. I said " You com-
menced to work at eleven and quit at five o'clock,
which is six hours. We had ten cents an hour for
splitting and fifty cents a cord for sawing wood ; your
work comes to sixty cents for splitting." Gumes
said that was correct. When we had got into the
house, I said to the lady, " W e have done your work,
and put it in the cellar as agreed." She asked me
what the price was? I replied, $1.90. Gumes said,
" It ain't so much as that." I told him it was. Gumes
said, "Oh, well, no need in cheating the woman."
Those remarks made me very angry, and I told him
to please mind his business, I knew what I was doing.
The lady said, " Come, don't go to quarreling here ;
you had better go to the Captain and let him pay
you." After we got out of the house, I said, "Gumes,
what under the sun do you mean ? Did you want to
make that lady believe I was cheatiing her ? I didn't
want you to say anything, for I knew you would
make just such a blunder." He replied, " Well, you
were cheating her." I said, " What do we have for
sawing wood, and what did this come to ?" He said,
" The sawing was one dollar." I said, " What did
your splitting come to for six hours ?" He said,
" Sixty cents, and that was what the bill was." I
asked him what time I left off sawing? He said,
" Two o'clock." " What did my splitting come to for
three hours ? Don't that make the bill $1.90 ? He
said he forgot my splitting. I said to him, " You are
a clever fellow, an honest fellow; but you have a
curious way of showing it. You lcok at but one side
of the. thing, and by so doing, you make trouble for



80



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



other folks and yourself, too." Gumes was a very
peaceable aud honest man, and he carried that trait of
character with him during his entire life.

The next day we went aboard the Captain's vessel?
to settle. I made off the Captain's bill and presented
it. After reading it he asked me how much my bill
was. I said " That is my bill, $1.90." He said " But
what is your part alone?" I said, "We work to-
gether, in partnership, ani have fifty cents a cord for
sawing wood, and ten cents an hour for splitting it.
We sawed two cords, which was one dollar, and split
nine hours which is ninety cents." The Captain
said the sawing is one dollar. I replied, " Yes, sir,"
" And how long did you split T* " Three hours, and
Gumes six hours." Then he said " Your splitting
and sawing amounts to 11.30." Then counting it
out, handed it to me, saying, " This pays you." Then
to Gumes he said, " I am not going to give you ten
cents an hour ; you ain't worth it. My wife said she
sat at the window during the time you was working,
and she said you was a lazy lubber. Brown did
nearly all the sawing, and in three hours split as
much as you did in the six ; besides, every little while
you would run off somewhere, so I shall pay you but
six cents an hour, which is thirty-six cents. You
ought to be ashamed of yourself, to let that little fel-
low do twice as much work as you, when you ought,
by good rights, to do twice as much as he." Gumes
said, " He is older than I am." The Captain said, " I
know better." Gumes said, " He is, sir ; ain't you,
Brown ?" I replied, " Yes, I am." " How much
older," said the Captain. " Four years." The Cap-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



81



tain said, ' k No wonder you couldn't do any work;
you are all legs ; you grow too fast. Go home and
tell your mother to put a big flat stone on your head
to stop your growing so fast."

We left the Captain, and I divided my money with
him. He then said, " You need not come after me to
saw any more wood, for I am not able to saw wood '
and I ain't going to for anybody." I soon had another
call to saw, split and pile up six cord of wood. The
sawing was three dollars, and the splitting two. I
finished it in four days. I soon found that I need
not again be caught in such circumstances as I had
been, for the people gave me a great many jobs at
that time, and I was known as the " little wood saw-
yer."

Our society continued holding meetings, and we
decided to abandon the idea of having a band, for we
learned that we could not get such instruments as we
wanted for less than $150, and we could put our
money to a better use. We then increased our num-
ber of members, and used our funds to assist each
other in case of sickness, according as they should be
in need. So we called a meeting on the 17th of
June, 1828, and organized under a constitution, hav-
ing a preamble, setting forth our intentions and our
constitution for government, making provision for
the appointment of officers for the government of the
society. I was appointed president, Charles Cozzens
treasurer, and Samuel Brown secretary. The consti-
tution made provision for a committee of seven, five
of whom were a quorum, for the transaction of all
business. The name of the society was the " Young
Men's Union Funds Society."



82



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



Our numbers increased, and we held our meetings
every Tuesday. We passed resolutions that if any
male citizens died to attend their funerals, out of re-
spect, as well as attending the funerals of our own
members ; and if any female society wished our at-
tendance, we would escort them. Our uniform was
dark dress coat, white pantaloons and white gloves,
with a gilded star with blue ribbon attached to it on
the left breast ; and a blue roll fifteen inches long,
with a gilt edge three inches long. As we admitted
no spectators to our room, we kept our business to
ourselves. The people became very suspicious of us,
This made us the more anxious to keep our business
a secret.

We soon became the gossip of the city. Some said
it could be for no good object that we met every
week. Finally, William Scott, one of .our members,
died. The society sent a committee to Mrs. Scott to
ascertain if it would be agreeable to her for us to
attend in society order, as he was a member. She
consented to our request. Accordingly at the ap-
pointed hour the society under command of our Mar-
shall, James A. Gumes, attended the funeral in a
body and formed in line in front of the hou?e. When
the procession was ready to move the society took up
their line of march in front, and when the procession
returned we opened to the right and left, with raised
hats, until the procession passed through, then passed
on. This was our first appearance in public, and it
attracted great attention. The applications for mem-
bership among the young men of our town were
numerous. There was one other society among the



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



83



colored people, the Mutual Relief Society, and con-
sisted of elderly and settled persons, and had been
formed two years previous. Their object was to as-
sist each other in case of sickness and distress— a
very Worthy object.

In reference to our meeting house and school
room: It was commenced in 1819 and finished in
1821, and was dedicated to the worship of Almighty
God in 1822. It had been finished and in use six
years prior to the time of our our society's turnout.
It had a nice audience room capable of accommo-
dating five hundred persons, so that the first Baptist
with all other churches which had separate seats to
accommodate colored people, were forsaken except
by a few, who, still holding their membership with
those churches, felt it their duty to attend. The
school room was also well filled up, and would ac-
commodate from 150 to 200 scholars. At the time
of the church dedication the colored people made
great preparations to celebrate the day. A committee
met at the house of Hodge Congdon, on Benefit
street, to make arrangements for a suitable acknowl-
edgement of their gratification.

The young colored men formed a military company
(called the African Greys) to escort the African so-
cieties to their new house of worship. The proces-
sion in line of march was lo pass Meeting street by
the Friend's meeting house. There the Friends were
to join the society and the procession move up to
Meeting street church, where the service of dedica-
tion was to be performed. The Friends were not
aware they were to have a company escort them.



84



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



When the procession arrived in front of where the
Freinds were to join them, seeing they had a band of
music and a military company to escort them, they
refused to join in with them, preferring to go by
themselves.

The African societies wore their regalias. The
president of the societies, who was their commander,
was dressed to represent an African chief, having on
a red pointed cap, and carried an elephant's tusk in
his hand; each end was tipped with gilt. The other
officers carrying emblems, decked with lemons and
oranges, representing the fruits of Africa, and other
emblems. The military company wore black belts
and carried muskets, and the officers with their side
arms. When they reached the meeting house they
were informed that Mr. Brown was opposed to having
arms carried into the house ; so they were stacked
outside, while the company marched in. Aftet the
services were closed the company paraded the streets,
commanded by Col. Geo. Barrett, a man well posted
in military tactics, and had attended some military
officer, from whom he acquired his knowledge ; and
it was said that General Carrington procured his
services when he was ordered to take a post off Fox
Point, which the colored people had voluntarily
thrown up to receive a British frigate, which threat-
ened to come up the river. Finding there was a fort
erected and commanded by Black Cloud in readiness
to give them a warm reception, they declined the
visit.

This same Col. Barrett, when marching with the
African Greys, arrived at Market Square, and in



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



85



making a wheel — the streets being covered with ice
— slipped and fell down. This was quite amusing
to the spectators who were looking on. Just after
that accident one of the officers was tapped on the
shoulder, and a bill was presented to him by an officer,
charging him five dollars for a pair of boots. This
was concocted by some men to make sport. The
company immediately came to a halt, and after ascer-
taining the difficulty, Corporal Cato G. Northrup
drew out his pocket-book, took out a five dollar bill,
and passed it to the officer, and by order of Col. Bar-
ret the company resumed their march as if nothing
had happened. The trick which they thought would
create such beautiful fun, passed off unnoticed.

Now I will speak of the management of our school.
Our people continued their school in the meeting
house ; having organized themselves into a society,
hired their own teachers, charging each scholar one
dollar and fifty cents a quarter, and agreeing with
the teacher that if he could not collect fifty dollars
a quarter from the scholars they would make up
what was short of the amount. It was frequently
the case that at the end of the quarter they would
have to collect some money to make up the deficiency.
A great many were unable to pay.

The town officers, learning that the colored people
were turning their attention to getting houses to live
in, concluded that, as they were accumulating pro-
perty, they should be taxed. So they levied a tax
on them. This made a great commotion among them,
and they called a meeting in the vestry of our church
to consider the propriety or impropriety of paying



86



WILLIAM J. BROWN



the tax. The meeting was called to order, and Geo.
C. Willis appointed chairman, and Alfred Niger sec-
retary. Several colored gentlemen addressed the
meeting,*' among whom were Messrs. Geo. McCarty,
Edward Barnes, Ichabod Northup, James Harris and
others. The amount of taxes levied was forty dol-
lars, or near that amount, annually. But very few
colored people had any real estate at that time.

After the feeling was understood by those who
had spoken, they appointed a committee to meet the
next general assembly, and inform them of their
disapproval to meet the tax, for they believed taxa-
tion and representation went together ; and they
were unwilling to be taxed and not allowed to be
represented. Some of the members of the house
said it was perfectly right ; if the colored people were
to be taxed they should be represented. But the
members of the house from Newport were bitterly
opposed to colored people being represented, saying :
" Shall a Nigger be allowed to go to the polls and
tie my vote ? No, Mr. Speaker, it can't be. The
taxe3 don't amount to more than forty or fifty dol-
lars ; let them be taken off." So the taxes were
taken off.

At that time the colored people had little or no
protection. It was thought a disgrace to plead a
colored man's cause, or aid in getting his rights as a
citizen, or to teach their children in schools. The
teachers themselves were ashamed to have it known
that they taught colored schools.

It was the custom for children on seeing their
parish teacher or minister to raise their hats and



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



87



speak to them, and the girls to make a courtesy.
This instruction was taught to them by their parents
when small. It was often stated by elderly people
that children must be seen and not heard. When
company were in the house fchey were not to make
much noise, and when they came into their own
house they must take off their hats and sit down. If
they did not know enough to take of their hats they
would soon teach them that their heads must be un-
covered while in the house. They would also teach
them, as a general thing, that they must not come to
the table to eat their victuals until they were called.
They did not allow their children to be the first at
the table ; and when called they did not suffer them to
help themselves, but to wait until they were helped ;
When they wanted anything always to ask for it, and
when they had finished eating to rise from the table
and thank their parents. My parents were so strict
that they did not allow us to come to the table until
they had finished eating ; then they would put vic-
tuals on our plates and call us. When we came to
the table we had to stand up to eat, not to sit down
in chairs. We had to eat just what they put on our
plate, and to have our plates cleared before we could
have them replenished. When in the street to be
respectful to every one, and be very careful not to
run against any elderly person. If we did we were
liable to feel the weight of their cane ; also, to be
particular when sent on an errand to a person's
house, to knock at the door, and when we enter take
off our hats and make a low bow, holding our hats
in hand until we went out.



88



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



We learned this from our spelling books. If we
neglected any of these marks of politeness we would
be put in mind of our duty by any elderly person
who might be passing, first saying to the boy, " Whose
boy are you ? Where do you live ? What are your
parent's name ?" They would then say to us, " Go
home and tell your parents to teach you some man-
ners." When they had said this, the boy or girl had
better leave as soon as possible, and show no wry
faces or impudent looks, for if you did there would
be forthcoming a box on the ear, or a stroke of a
cane ; and if you went and told your parents, all the
satisfaction they would give would be " they served
you right ; you deserved it." But it was considered
such a disgrace for white men to teach colored schools
that they would be greatly offended if the colored
children bowed or spoke to them on the street. Mr.
Anthony, who was at one time teaching the colored
school, became very angry because Zebedee Howland
met him on the street, spoke to him, raised his hat
and bowed. He took no notice of his dark com-
plexioned scholar, but the next Monday morning took
poor Zebedee and the whole school to task, saying,
" When you meet me on the street, don't look to-
wards me, or speak to me ; if you do, I will flog you
the first chance I get."

The feeling against the colored people was very
bitter. The colored people themselves were ignorant
of the cause, unless it could be attributed to our con-
dition, not having the means to raise themselves in
the scale of wealth and affluence, consequently those
who were evil disposed would offer abuse whenever



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



89



they saw fit, and there was no chance for resentment
or redress. Mobs were also the order of the day, and
the poor colored people were the sufferers.

In the northwest part of the city was a place
called Addison Hollow, but was nick-named Hard-
scrabble. A great many colored people purchased
land there, because it was some distance from town,
and hence quite cheap. They put up small houses
for themselves, and earned their living in various
ways. They could be seen almost any time, with
their saw-horse, standing, some on the Great Bridge,
some on Shingle Bridge, and some on Mill Bridge,
waiting for work. As hard coal was not known at
that time, (except Liverpool coal,) everybody used
wood. Some men did jobs of gardening and farm-
ing.

A man named Addison built houses, and rented to
any one who would give him his price. As he rented
cheap, people of bad character hired of him, and
these drew a class of bad men and women, so that the
good were continually being molested, having no pro-
tection. At last disturbances became so common
that they raised a mob, and drove many from their
houses, then tore them down, took their furniture—
what little they had— carried it to Pawtucket, and
sold it at auction. This was done late in the fall.
One colored man named Christopher Hall, a widower
with three or four children, a pious man, bearing a
good character, and supported himself and family by
sawing wood, had his house torn down by the roughs
and stripped of its contents. He drew the roof over
the cellar, and lived in it all winter. The people
*8



90



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



tried in vain to coax him out, and offered him a house
to live in. Many went up to see the ruins, among
them some white ladies, who offered to take his chil-
dren and bring them up, but he would not let them
go. In the spring following he went to Liberia, on
the western coast of Africa. Not long after this there
was another mob, commenced at the west end of
Olney street. Here were a number of houses built
and owned by white men, and rented to any one,
white or colored, who wanted to hire one or more
rooms, rent payable weekly. Some of these places
had bar-rooms, where liquors were dealt out, and
places where they sold cakes, pies, doughnuts, &c.
These they called cooky stands. In some houses
dancing and fiddling was the order of the day. It
soon became dangerous for one to pass through there
in the day time that did not belong to their gang, or
patronize them. Most all sailors who came into port
would be introduced into Olney street by some one
who had an interest that way. I remember when a
boy, passing up one day to my father's garden, which
was on that street, in company with two other boys,
looking at the people as we passed along. Some
were sitting at the windows, some in their doorway,
some singing, some laughing, some gossiping, some had
their clay furnaces in front of their houses, cooking,
and seeing us looking at them, said, " What are you
gawking at, you brats ?" hurling a huge stone at the
same time, and we were obliged to run for our lives.
This street had a correspondence with all the sailor
boarding houses in town, and was sustained by their
patronage. Vessels of every description were con-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



91



stantly entering our port, and sailing crafts were seen
from the south side of the Great Bridge to India
Point. It was the great shipping port of New Eng-
land in those days, and although the smallest of all
the States, Ehode Island was regarded as among the
wealthiest, the Quakers occupying a large portion of
the State.



92



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER V.

In my last chapter, I had much to say about the
condition of the colored people of this State, and the
bitter prejudice they were subjected to, and the mobs
by which they were surrounded. I will say more in
this chapter about sailors, and the influence brought
to bear upon them while in port.

There was a sailor boarding house in Power street,
kept by a man from Virginia by the name of Jimmie
Axum. He was a sailor, every inch of him, and his
wife, Hannah, was an Indian woman of the Narrgan-
sett tribe. Uncle Jimmie was a shipping master and
a fiddler, and when he failed to entertain sailors, they
all knew where to go — Olney street was their next
port of entry.

When a ship's crew of sailors came ashore they
would all go to Uncle Jimmie's to board, and Uncle
Jimmie, with his household, would entertain them
with fiddle and tamborine. There would be drink-
ing and dancing throughout the day and evening, and
every half hour some one would take a pitcher and
go after liquor, which they purchased by the quart
or pint. The best of Jamaica rum then sold for nine
pence a quart ; gin at the same price. Brandy was
twenty -five cents a quart.



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



93



In those days it was common to drink liquor;
everybody used it. Ministers drank and Christians
drank. If you were passing on Main or Water street
in the morning the common salutation was : " Good
morning, Mr. A. or B., won't you walk in and take
a glass of brandy or gin? " If men were at work
on the wharf, at eleven in the morning and four in
the afternoon grog was passed around, consisting of
a jug of rum and a pail of water. Each one would
help himself to as much as he wanted. Even the
people that went out washing must be treated at
eleven and four o'clock, and people were considered
mean who would not furnish these supplies to those
whom they employed. If a person went out to make
a call or spend the evening and was not treated to
something to drink, they would feel insulted. You
might as well tell a man in plain words not to come
again, for he surely would go off and spread it, how
mean they were treated — not even so much as to ask
them to have something to drink ; and you would
not again be troubled with their company.

The sailors often drank to excess. You could fre-
quently see them on South Water street lying at full
length or seated against a building intoxicated.

After sailors had stayed at Uncle Jimmie's board-
ing-house long enough to be stripped of nearly all
their money by Uncle Jimmie and his wife, and the
females which hung around there, they would be suf-
fered to stroll up to Olney street to spend the rest of
their money.

One night a number of sailors boarding at Uncle
Jimmie's went up to Olney street to attend a dance.



94



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



It was about nine o'clock when they left the house,
expecting to dance all night and have what they
called a sailor's reel and breakdown. About ten
o'clock there came to Uncle Jim's a large, tall and
powerful looking black man to the door. He said,
" Uncle Jimmie, where is the boys ?" He answered,
" You will find them up in Olney street ; they went
up to a dance to-night." He replied, " I am going
up there, and if anybody comes here and inquires for
me tell them I am gone up to the dance in Olney
street." Uncle Jimmy said, " Who are you and what
is your name ? " The man replied, " I am the Rat-
tler." Thus saying, he departed. A little past ten
o'clock while they were on the floor dancing, a tall
man came in and as he entered the door he said, " I
am the Rattler." No one took notice of him. Those
that were on the floor continued their dancing. This
man seeing no one noticed him went in amongst them
and commenced dancing, running against one man
and pushing against another, just as his fancy led
him. There being at that time five or six large men
calling themselves fighting men or bullies, came to
the conclusion that they would not have their dance
broke up in that shape by a stranger that nobody
knew. One of the men by the name of James Tread-
well, and known to be a great fighter, said to another
large double-jointed man, so considered, by the name
of Augustus Williams, "This fellow calls himself
the Rattler, let's rattle his box." So they gathered
three or four other men who would come to their as-
sistance if needed. They approached the stranger
and addressed him saying, " Who are you, stranger,



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



95



and what do you want here ?" He replied, " I am
the Rattler." They said to him, « If you don't elear
out we will rattle your box-" He replied, " That you
can do as soon as you have a mind to." Without
further ceremony they all pitched into him. The
Rattler threw one man into the bar, another he threw
across the room, some he slammed against the sides
of the house, and in a few minutes he cleared the
house, and as they had no power to resist him, they
very wisely concluded that he was the devil in fine
clothing. This story was told me by Augustus Wil-
liams, who was present and witnessed the whole affair
and declared it to be the truth. The next visitation
in Olney street was made by two crews of sailors, one
white and the other colored, consequently a fight was
the order of the day, in which the blacks were the
conquerors, and drove the whites out of the street.
The white sailors not relishing this kind of treatment,
doubled their forces the next night and paid Olney
street another visit, and had a general time of knock-
ing down and dragging out. This mob conduct last-
ed for nearly a week. They greatly discomforted the
saloon keepers, drinking their liquors, smashing up the
decanters and other furniture. One of their number
was shot dead by a bar tender, which so enraged them
that they began to tear down houses, threatening to
destroy every house occupied by colored people.
Their destructive work extended through Olney
street, Gaspee street and a place called the Hollow,
neither of which bore a very good reputation. They
warned the better class of colored people to move out
and then went on with their work of destruction, call-
ing on men of like principles, from other towns, to



96



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



help, promising to share with them in the plunder,
or take their pay from the banks. Governor Arnold
hearing of this ordered out the military, thinking that
their presence would quell the mob. They were not
so easily frightened, and continued their work of ruin
until the governor was compelled to order his men to
fire. This had the desired effect ; broke up the riot
and dispersed the mob ; but Olney street had fallen
to rise no more as a place of resort for rum shops, sai-
lors and lewd women.

During this time I was attending school in order
to finish my studies and learn a trade. I found
plenty of work to do nights and mornings among my
neighbors, often being engaged in waiting at evening
parties, by which I earned enough to pay for my school-
ing and clothe myself. This was easier than sawing
wood. Several young ladies attended our school, and
as I was somewhat noted for my graceful appearance,
I liked to display my gallantry among them. One
afternoon two of our young girls got into a dispute
about some trifling matter, which aroused the teacher's
anger, and he told them to stop. They had been
twitting each other about having white fathers, and
in his passion he told them that they both looked as
if their fathers were white. I was much displeased
at this remark, and waited upon one of them home
after school, and learned the cause of the dispute. I
waited upon her several times until it became ru-
mored about that I was waiting upon her. I often
met her at parties where we were often invited. My
means were not sufficient to allow me to dress as fash-
ionable as I wished, and went coasting, concerning
which I shall SDeak more fully in another chapter.



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



97



CHAPTER VI.



I promised in the last chapter to say something
about my life as a sailor. I went coasting on board
of the sloop Venus, commanded by Capt. Childs, in
whose familyl had lived some years previous'. He
offered me ten dollars a month to go before the mast.
I accepted the position and went to work. We num-
bered six in all : the captain, mate, cook, steward,
and two foremastmen. His sloop was the largest in
the line but the dullest sailer, unless she was under
a stiff breeze. We came out of New York one day
heavily laden with cotton, and one hundred carboys
of vitriol on deck, bound for Providence, intending
to stop at Bristol to land freight ; there were thirty-
three passengers on board. We started with a light
wind which increased during the night, and became
so powerful by ten in the morning, that it carried
away our topsail, which we afterwards secured. The
sea ran so high, and we shipped such heavy seas, that
we lost the blocking from two casks, catching uncle
Tom, the cook, between them. I did not see the
danger he was in until the captain coming out called
all hands to rescue him from the danger he was in ;
we did so, John and myself blocking and securing the
casks. I was securing the main boom when the ship



1)8



WILLIAM J„ BROWN.



came about; she shipped another sea and down went
the forecastle and half a dozen casks of water . We
were sent down to bail out the water ; uncle J ack
dipped it up, and I passed it over to John, and he
threw it overboard. We had not been long at work
when she shipped a second sea, and sent down more
water ; it seemed to be about a foot deep. Uncle
Jack said; " hold on Bill, it is no use bailing, we must
go and shorten sail "; saying this he left me at the
foot of the steps, went on deck, and said to the cap-
tain, " hadn't we better shorten sail ?" he said, " no,
we will drive her through; " to which uncle Jack re-
plied, " well drive her through if we go to the bot-
tom." I kept at my post at the foot of the steps,
waiting for uncle Jack's return, when she shipped
another sea, filling the scuttle. I felt for the steps, for
I thought she was sinking ; soon I heard the captain's
voice. I jumped around trying to get up the steps,
when the hatch came down over me. It was dark,
and the water was nearly up to my arms. I was get-
ting out of the water, but reaching the hatchway,
could go no farther. I put the top of my head against
the hatch, but could not move it ; all was still on deck ;
not a step or a voice was heard. I was determined
to com e out, and stooping down, raised myself with
all the power possible against the hatch ; Capt. Childs
was sitting on the top of it to keep it down ; a sea
struck him in the back at the same time I was but-
ting the hatch and knocked him completely off; he
would have gone overboard, carried by the force of
the wind, had he not fetched up in the shrouds.
When I came on deck a sad spectacle presented it-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



99



self; her gunwales were even with the water, the men
were trying to move about on deck and the water
was up to their middle. Uncle Jack let go the jib
and flying jib halyards, settled the peak, throttled the
mainsails, lowered the sternsails, and she came up.
It seemed by appearances that in one minute more she
would have sunk, never to rise again. I took a hand-
spike and knocked a board of the railing, letting the
water off, and relieving the deck. I went aft to the
pump, rigged it and went to pumping. The clatter-
ing of the pumps aroused the captain, and he said,
"that's right, Bill, pump away." I kept watching
the mate, thinking that if he got the boat which was
hanging on the davits, I would grasp an oar and fol-
low him. I asked a man who came on to work his
passage to spell me at the pumps; he said he couldn't
pump. There was a minister on board standing by,
who said to him, " What kind of a man are you ;
here this boy is doing all he can to save the ship,
which seems to be in danger of going to the bot-
tom, and you refuse to help him." When the
minister said that, I was frightened, for I was not fit
to die, and if the vessel sunk, I saw no possible way
of escaping hell. I began to pray within myself, for
I never intended to go to hell, but I knew I must go
there unless I repented ; still I had confidence to be-
lieve that I must read the bible, and go according to
its directions to be saved. I never thought of being
taken by surprise before. I now felt that something
must be done, and I promised if the Lord would spare
my life, I would seek him in earnest, and not suffer
myself to be caught in such a state again. W e soon




100



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



got through the race and came to anchor ; as I came
out of the forecastle a sea struck me, and knocked my
hat off j my shoes were in the chain box, and my
jacket lay in the berth. Uncle Jack asked me to take
something to drink, as I was wet and cold ; I told him
I would ; he handed it to me and I took a tumbler
full of rum, and drank it, not knowing its power. I
took two biscuits and got into my berth, and knew no
more until ten o'clock the next morning. The sloop
got under way, and they called for me but I was no-
where to be found ; they found my hat and shoes and
came to the conclusion that I was washed overboard :.
no one could recollect when I was last seen ; they
knew I was pumping, and that was the last they
knew about me. The sloop arrived in Newport at
twelve o'clock that night. He entered his vessel in
the morning and reported the rough time he had on
on the sound and the loss of one man; after breakfast
they began discharging their freight, Uncle Jack had
to work in the hold as they were one man short. I
was awoke by hearing the words, " back down your
tackle, hoist away." I could not imagine where I was.
I lay some time thinking that we must be in Newport,
for we had to stop there to leave freight. I got up,,
eat my breakfast, and went on deck ; they had hoist-
ed a barrel of flour up, and were just landing it, when
I put my hand on John's shoulder ; turning around
he saw me, and jumped from me with a shriek ; the
man below asked, " What's the matter ?" John said,
'•Here is Bill." They came out of the hold, to see
if it was me . The captain heading the sound came
quickly into, the sloop, They were all anxious to-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



101



know where I had been. I told them I had struck
my head against the hatchway, trying to get out of
thg scuttle, then got into my berth and knew no more
until morning. They were all very glad that I was
safe; saying, they thought they had looked every-
where, but never once thought about my berth.
When we arrived in Providence, and discharged our
cargo, we found our sheet iron damaged. We had
five hundred bundles in the bottom of the sloop. I
felt as if I had been a sailor long enough, and now
desired to turn my attention to business of a different

kind ; so I left the vessel and entered school again..
9*



102



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER VII.

I now thought it time for me to look for a place to
learn a trade, and my readers will at once see the
hindrances I met with in every effort I made in that
direction. My mother had just died, after a short
illness ; her burial occurring on the 3d of December,
1831, which caused a great change in our family.
This change made me the more anxious to secure a
good place to learn my trade.

My first call was on a Mr. Knowles, a first-class
carpenter, to see if he would take me as an appren-
tice to the trade. His excuse was that he had but
little work, and that he was going to close up business.
I next applied to a Mr. Langley, a shoemaker, to see
if he would learn me the shoe business ; but he re-
fused without giving me an excuse. I made application
to several gentlemen doing business, for a chance to
work, but all refused me, giving some very frivolous
excuse. I could readily see that the people were de-
termined not to instruct colored people in any art. I
next called on Mr. Ira B. Winsor, ■ a grocery man.
Making known to him my wants I gained his sympa-
thy, and a promise to do what he could for me. His
promise to hire me as a clerk encouraged me very
much. He had first to consult his uncle, who was



WILLIAM J. I3R0WN.



103



his guardian, before he could give me a decided
answer. His uncle bitterly opposed his hiring a
black boy while there were so many white boys he
could gpt. ' r his objection of hi « uncle displeased him
much, and he tola him if he could not have me he
would have none. So he never hired a clerk. I
often went in and helped wait on customers. This,
however, did not suit me. I wanted something per-
manent that I could depend on for future support,
not to be shifting to various kinds of employ as I had
been doing. Other boys of my acquaintance, with
little or no education, jerked up instead of being
brought up, were learning trades and getting employ-
ments, and I could get nothing. It seemed singular
to me at first. I soon found it was on account of my
color, for no colored men except barbers had trades,
and that could hardly be called a trade. The white
people seemed to be combined against giving us any
thing to do which would elevate us to a free and
independent position. The kindest feelings were
manifested towards us in conversation, and that was
all. I was now seventeen years old, and was at a
loss to know what steps to take to get a living, for if
I possessed the knowledge of a Demosthenes or Cicero,
or. Horace, or Virgil, it would not bring to me flatter-
ing prospects for the future. To drive carriage, carry
a market basket after the boss, and brush his boots,
or saw wood and run errands, was as high as a colored
man could rise. This seemed to be the only prospect
lying in my path. Some of my associates worked for
eight or ten dollars a month, but what would that
small pittance be to them, settled down in life with



104



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



a family to support, if they should have long continued
sickness to contend with. This wouldn't suit me ; I
must go somewhere else to find employ.

I now commenced the study of book-keeping,
thinking it would be of use to me sometime. I con-
tinued my study one year, when I had a chance to
get work with a Wealthy lawyer, to take care of his
office and bedroom, paying me five dollars a month,
and extra pay for all extra work done. I was told
that he was a very cross man, and difficult to please,
and often very abusive. Several good men had tried
him, but could not suit him and had left. I concluded
to try him. My father thought it was useless for me
to try, but still if I did I must give him half of my
wages. I made no reply ; but was willing to do so
after clothing myself up. I made him no promise,
knowing that if I did not promise I should not break
my word. My father was very particular about peo-
ple keeping their word. If they said yes, he expected
it ; if you said no, he would then be in doubt. Being
suspicious tnat I would not give him the money, he
called on Mr. Greene and told him to pay him part of
the wages and the rest to me, but said nothing to me
about what he had done. I commenced work Mon-
day morning, and found Mr. Greene very pleasant,
and soon learned that my work suited him. When
my month was up I asked for my pay. He then told
me what my father said about my wages being paid
one half to him and the rest to me. I was much
struck back, thinking that my game was blocked ;
however, I agreed that it was all right, "and offered
to carry my father's portion to him. He gave it to



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



105



ine, and now, says I to myself, if father gets this he
will be smarter than I am. I purchased a nice little
green ^-oadcloth di ess coat in M.c. H. Brown's store.
This used up my month's wages, although I had taken
great care to have it appear that I had a large roll of
bills in my possession by getting my money changed
into one-dollar bills, then rolling each bill in a
separate piece of paper, it looked as if I had a large
amount of money. I took my coat home and laid it
where my father would see it. My sister who kept
house asked where I got my coat ; I told her. Soon
my father came home to dinner, and seeing the coat
asked whose it was. My sister told him I had just
bought it. He asked her if my month was up.
She told him it was, for I had no money before that
day. She told him I had also bought a pair of shoes ;
he asked if I had left any money for him. She said
no; I couldn't have much left after buying those
things. Nothing more was said about the money or
things. At the end of the second month I asked for
my money. He told me he would pay me the next
day, but that my father had been there and told him
to pay me three dollars and keep the rest until he
called for it. I then told him about spending my
money to purchase a coat, which I had bought at a
great bargain. As he paid me I told him that if it
would be any accommodation to him, I would hand
it to father and save him the trouble. "It will be no
trouble for me to pay him," he said. Mr. Greene was
much pleased with my work. After working for him
three months his cousin, William C. Greene, hired the
house and rented him a room in it. He had a large



10b'



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



family ; kept a cook, chamber maid and housekeeper,
as his wife's health was very delicate. He said to me
one morning, " William, I want to make a bargain
with you to work for me. My chamber maid is going
away on a visit and will be absent two months or
more. I want you to do all the errands that my folks
want done, and split some wood for them, (I believe
they are now out,) and anything Miss Paris wants
you to do, do it, and I will pay you. As soon as you
have done Mr. Richard Greene's work in the morning,
you can get your breakfast here, and then be in readi-
ness to do the chores." I told him that I went to school,
but would do what I could between school hours. This
arrangement pleased him, and I commenced with him
that day, doing whatever I was called upon to do.
After working for six weeks I made out and presented
my bill at his office : he being away, I left it on the
office desk. I had been very careful in setting down
my charges, as I was to be paid for going on errands
a certain sum each time, never higher than twelve
cents or lower than six. He was quite displeased
with the bill, refusing to pay it. I was very calm,
and told him I thought my charges were reasonable ;
but I did not wish to cherish hard feelings, one
towards the other. I then submitted the prices of my
work to his judgment ; he seemed much pleased with
my mild way of speaking, and said he would take roy
bil and fix the prices, and let me know when he was
ready ; and I could keep on doing his work as usual.
In about three weeks he sent for me to come to his
counting room. I went down and found my bill
ready for settlement, but he had reduced the bill from



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



107



six and a half to two dollars, allowing me three cents
for every errand this side of the bridge, above Market
Square, and ten cents an hour for cutting wood. As
he was willing to be governed by these prices in the
future, I receipted the bill and took my pay, which
was 12.50. In two months and a half the maid re-
turned, and &s my se vices were no louger required, I
went away, made out my bill and carried it to the
office. Some two weeks passed, when his clerk, meet-
ing me, said that Mr. Greene wanted to see me. I
went to his office and found him fretting about my
bill. I asked him if he could find any charge on the
bill which did not correspond with the dates on the
books where the purchases were made. If he did I
would alter the bill ; but if he found it to be of the
same date the purchases were made, I could make no
change in the bill. Finding nothing to justify his
belief, he paid me and I left him.

I was without work some three months. I then
applied to Enos Freeman, a colored man who had
just opened a shop to repair shoes. He said he was
unable to keep a man ; he could hardly take care of
himself by his trade, as he had just commenced busi-
ness. I told him I wanted to learn the trade and
if he would learn me I would board myself. He told
me to come and he would learn me all he knew about
it. I went home and told father ; he was much
pleased about it and said if I would go there and
learn my trade he would board me. He said if he
had learned the trade he could have made four or five
dollars a day where he had been in foreign countries.
I commenced and learned very fast. At the close of



108



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



that year Mr. Freeman was taken sick and after a
short illness died. I purchased all his tools of his
half brother, Geo. Peters, determined to work until
I could raise means to go away, which would take
about eighteen months. My custom increased and
promised great success. I had the waiters' work from
the City Hotel, Franklin and Mansion House, besides
waiters that lived in private families ; and the pros-
pect was that if my business continued good, I would
have a sufficient amount of money at the appointed
time to travel with, to some place where I could make
a, permanent living, for I was determined to go to
some place where my prospects would be more en-
couraging. I also began to think that if I could be
more successful in business, I would like to get
married. But old people would say that it is very
difficult to keep the pot a-boiling ; so I concluded to
make an effort to test my powers to do extra work.
Then if I should be compelled to resort to that
method to support a family, it would not be a new
thing to me. And if I succeeded in performing extra
labors I would get married, and if not I would remain
single a while longer. I commenced working nights
until 12 o'clock, then replenish the fire and rest while
it was kindling. Then it would be warm enough to
commence work again. I followed it np one week,
but the last night the fire did not burn very fast, and
in waiting for it to kindle I fell asleep, and being
near the stove I began to make one of my graceful
bows until my head gently touched the stove, and to
my great discomfort burnt my forehead, nose and
chin, which speedily aroused me, as the pain was



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



109



•quite severe, taking a portion of skin off my fore-
head so that I could not work for *n hour or two. I
•continued working for two weeks to see if I could
endure the extra task. One night while resting I
fell asleep and dreamed that a man entered the shop
to kill me. I awoke, looked round, saw nothing
fell asleep and dreamed it again ; and again the third
time dreamed the same over again. Being startled
by the dream I awoke and found my shop on fire, all
in a bright flame. I looked to see where the fire
originated ; learning the cause I soon put it out with
<my shoe tub of water. A piece of canvas belonging
to father was hanging up in the shop ; he had used it
a, few days before when he spun oakum for Captain
Bullock's ship which was under repair, intending to
take it home in a few days. One end of it got un-
rolled and fell to the floor, and moving my bench it
got dragged out; the room was very warm and the
candle melted and falling on the floor set it on fire
and nearly consumed it. After putting the fire out I
went home and spent the rest of the night. I felt
that I had been working at night long enough
to warrant success in supporting a family.
Another important matter I must settle was to leave
the company I had been with so long, and break off
from the Tuesday night Society. Many had watched
me from the time I joined the church and I had to be
reserved in my deportment, for they well knew how
I used to be,; I allowed no one to insult me or make
useless threats. I found much difficulty in this respect.

In the summer time work was very scarce, and I
•did any work I -could get to do. In the winter sea-

110



WILLIAM J- BROWN.

son I had a plenty to do ; as customers must have
dry feet. In the slimmer I was without work half of
the time. I could not stay at home and wait for
work to come in, so I went out and looked for any
thing I could find. I found several persons at the
wate°r-side below the great bridge waiting for work.
I stopped fhere awhile, until James Johnson, one of
our members, drove up on his dray and asked what I
was doing there. I told him I was looking for a job,
as I had no shoes to mend. He said jump on my
dray and go with me to get a load of cotton. I went,
but* told him I did not know how to handle cotton
but would do the best I could. He got me a hook to
use, but had most of the work to do himself. He
gave me twelve cents for my work. Finding nothing
to do during the next three or four hours, I went
home ; spending the money I got for groceries. Pass-
ing Mrs. Helme's on George street, I saw in fi ont of
her door a cord of wood ; I called in and engaged to
saw and put it in the wood-shed. I put it in the
yard and sawed the most of it that night, finishing it
the next morning— using Bro. Gorham's saw and
horse, which I took without asking for it, thinking
no harm to use it at the time, as I lived in his house.
I had scarcely gone up stairs, when I heard Bro. Gor-
ham asking for his saw, saying to his wife I cannot
see what has become of my saw and horse ; where did
you put it, she asked ; he said somewhere in the
yard. Mrs. Gorham came to the door, and said to
him, there is your saw, just where you left it; you
never know where you put your things. He took
his saw and horse and went to work. Some three



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



Ill



months after, I told him I had his saw and horse at
the time he was looking for it, for I knew he would
not be offended. I was out of work and knew I
must find something to do to get us some food. I
took some soap and a bucket of clothes, and with my
sleeves rolled up went toward the college, inquiring
for work as I went along, finding none. At the col-
lege I rapped on a student's room door and asked for
work, also at a door where a young man wanted his
bedstead cleaned and floor washed, which I did ; he
then wanted some painting done, that I also did ;
earning four dollars and a half for the job,, I was
again out of work, and went out to look for more,
but did not find any ; on returning home my wife
asked me what luck I had, I answered none ; she said
she had found a job at the Boston and Providence
R. R. depot; a man had called that afternoon and
engaged her to go to work in the morning. I said I
would go and help her ; we went, taking such things
as we needed. I asked the gentleman what he wanted
done. He said the ceiling, sides and floor of the office
cleaned ; overhead and the sides of the office was
cased. I got some hot water and we went to work,
and worked until night, finishing that room. We
were told to come in the morning, as there was more
work to be done, but my wife was not able to do any
more cleaning, so I hired my brother-in-law and went
to work the next day ; he got sick after working one
day, and said it was too hard for him to clean. I
continued and finished every room in the building in
eleven days, which, at $1.50 a day, amounted to six-
teen dollars and a half. I asked how they liked the



112



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



work ? They replied very welL I made out and pre-
sented my-bill to Mr. Humphreys the next week; he
read it and said it was too much, and said he would
not pay it. I said I had not charged no more than
the common price, $1 50 a day ; he said he could have
got the work done for four dollars, but would give
me five, and that was all ; I must take that or noth-
ing. I went away and told my brother-in-law what
he said respecting the bill ; he said I ought to have
taken it, for now I wouldn't get any pay. These
railroad and steamboat men do as they please about
paying bills ; paying what they see fit. I have seen
men working on steamboats grumbling about their
pay, and would be kicked ashore with nothing. I
said I would make them give me my money, I will
not work for nothing. I hear that Mr. Moses Ives is
president of the company, and if they won't pay it
I will go to him, for he will see me righted. Some
three weeks after I went again on the fourth of July,-
saw Capt. Comstock,' master of transportation, and
said to him, I have a bill of sixteen and a half dollars
for cleaning your depot, and want some money to-day,
and would like to have you settle it, if you please.
He looked at the bill and read it, saying, I suppose it
is all right, William ; I said, yes, sir ; he handed it
back, saying come down at nine o'clock and Mr.
Humphreys will pay it ; tell him I say he must pay
it. I went to the office at 9 o'clock, Mr. Humphreys
said, so you have concluded to take five dolllars ? I
said no, sir, I have concluded to take sixteen dollars
and a half. Mr. H. said, I told you before that I would
not pay the bill. I said, Mr. Comstock told me to<



WILLIAM J. BROWN,



113



bring it down and you must pay it. When did you
see him ? he said. I replied, this morning. Did he say
I must pay it ? I said, yes, sir ; he said, I shall not
pay it ; I said well, and will tell Mr. Gomstock you
won't pa^ it, and started for the door. He said,
come back, I didn't say I wouldn't pay it, but
said I didn't want to, pay it until I saw Mr. Comstock.
My movements affected him. I said, let me have
three dollars, I want to use some to-day, and handed
the bill to him ; he took it and credited the amount.
I took the bill as it was receipted and went away,
feeling safe that he had acknowledged the bill. A
week afterwards I went again and finding Mr. Com-
stock in the office, I said, I had had a great deal of
trouble in coming three times for my money. He told
Mr. Humphreys to pay the bill. Mr. H. said, he has
charged sixteen dollars and a half, and it is too much
for the work. Mr. Comstock said, William, do you
make two days work out of one, or charge two days
work in one ? I said, I do as much work as any man
can do, and charge only the common price, one dollar
and fifty cents a day. He said, Mr. Humphreys, pay
that bill ; and he was obliged to pay it, although he
was much displeased. Mr. H. was not aware how
intimate Mr. Comstock and myself were, and that we
were boys together.

I found that other jobs kept coming in, from sources
I little expected, yet I had not been able to get a suf-
ficient sum to meet my arrears. I lived in a house
belonging to a widow lady, and was back in rent
fourteen dollars ; she told me she had concluded to
occupy the tenement herself, and as soon as I could to
10*




114



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



give it up ; she lived up stairs. I soon learned that
Barker & Wheaton wanted a man to dress new work.
I made application for the place, telling them I heard
they wanted a man ; they said they did, and asked
if I understood dressing new shoes with gum ; I said
I was a shoemaker by trade, but had never used any
gum ; they asked for recommendations ; I said I had
none, I had never worked for anybody to get one ;
they said they wanted a man that dida't have a lot
of company coming into the shop, and one that would
give no back talk when spoken to ; I told them I
never had anyone loafing around me, but if any one
had business with me I expected to see them wherever
I was, and as for back talk I never gave any, and if I
did not suit a man I left him ; one asked if I knew
his barbers, James Scott and Charles Burrell ;. I said
I was well acquainted with them ; he said I will see
them, and if they speak well of you, you come next
Monday and I will let you know. The next Monday
I went to the store and Mr. Barker said to me, Messrs.
Burrell and Scott spoke well of you, and said you
was just the man we wanted ; we want you to come
mornings and open the store, make the fire and sweep
the room ; for that we will pay one dollar a week ;
we want you to dress shoes with gum, and we will
allow you twenty-five cents a case ; when you. assist
in rolling leather, we will allow you one cent a boll ;
you need not close the store at night, we attend to
that ; we pay out money but once in three months
for work ; we sell and receive on three months' credit ;
if you can serve us on those terms you can begin next
Monday morning; we want you to look out for the



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



115



shop, let no one trouble our books ; you must be
dressed clean, for you will have to be in the front part
of the shop. Very good, sir, I will commence next
Monday morning, I said. Mr. B. said, when you
come go up stairs to Mr. Wheaton's room, rap on
the door, and he will give you the key; the shop must
be opened by half past seven o'clock. Now, I won-
dered how I should get along for three months without
any pay, as I had no means to sustain myself and
family during the time ; however, I thought I would
trust the Lord and do the best I could, and if I got
into straightened circumstances I might get some
money of them, to keep me along until the three
months were up. I told my wife if any work came
in during the day to keep it and I would do it in the
evening. I went to the store Monday morning, got
the key and opened the store, made up a fire and put
the store in order, as my employers would be in at
half past eight o'clock ; I then went around to see
how everything was placed, as I was very near sighted,
and did not wish them to know it for some time ; as
it was generally the case as soon as a person found I
was near sighted, the next opinion would be that I
was about blind. After learning the places of the
different articles they would use during the day I sat
down and waited for them to come in. Mr. Barker
soon came in, walked around the store, and said, Wil-
liam, you have every thing in first rate order, I think
you will suit us. I thanked him, saying I should
endeavor to. Mr. Barker was a smaller man than
myself, very large in feeling, quick in motion, sharp
in perception and would try to make one think he



116



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



knew everything. Mr. Wheaton, his partner, wa&
very tall and large in proportion ; slow and easy in
motion, dull in perception and moderate in appearance ;
you would think he knew but little ; he did the busi-
ness in the store, and Mr. Barker did the travelling
business. Mr. Barker told me to go to breakfast and
return as soon as possible, as they had a great deal of
work on hand. When I returned the first thing
called for was a hammer, saw and chisel; I brought
them, and when he finished put them back in their
places. He opened two cases of shoes, and set me to
work dressing them ; he had two bottles, one of gum
arabic to dress the bottoms to give them a lively red
color, the other was gum tragacanth to dress the upper
leather, making it look fresh and smooth ; after hav-
ing been shown how to dress the shoes I commenced
doing precisely as I had been shown, and worked all
day on that one case, and got only about two-thirds
of it done. I thought if I made no better progress
than that during the week I should leave off. The
next day I finished that case and another one besides,
and at the close of the week I was able to dress three
cases a day ; being particular to have him examine
each case before they were repacked. When I went
home nights I would find some work to be done to-
sustain myself the coming day. I now found that I
was obliged to put in practice that which I was once
trying as an experiment, working nights. Some nights
I would work until eleven o'clock, and other nights
until after midnight ; by this means I was enabled to
keep along nearly two months. One morning while
waiting I felt drowsy, and when Mr. Barker came in



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 117



he suddenly opened the door, and said what is the
matter, William, are you sick ? I said, no, sir ; He
said, what makes you so dull, did you not have sleep
enough last night ? I said, no, sir. He asked what
time I retired ? I answered three o'clock this morn-
ing. He said what was you doing that you did not go
to bed before, as you ought to? I said, I am obliged
to work nights to support myself and family, as you
could pay me no money for three months. He said
that is too bad, we cannot get our money until it is
due, but if you or any of your friends want shoes, we
will let you have them at wholesale prices and credit
them to your account, and you can receive the money.
When the three months expired I made out my bill,
setting down each day's work, the number of cases of
shoes I had dressed each day, and presented it for
settlement. It was examined by my employers and
they wanted to know who made it out for me ? I said
I always kept my own accounts and made out my
own bills. They said they had no idea I could write
such a fine hand, for neither of them could begin to
write like it. My work came to over eighty dollars,
and they settled it, lacking ten dollars. I then could
settle up some of my back debts ; the first was my
rent, amounting to twenty-one dollars. My landlady
was much pleased at receiving her rent in full, and
said I need not move as she had concluded to remain
up stairs, and had concluded that she should never
tell me to move the second time, and as soon as I
could better myself, to do so. I was soon able to dress
six cases a day. I commenced the second quarter
by putting down the balance due, ten dollars, and



118 WILLIAM J. BROWN.

the charges underneath. I sold twelve pair of shoes,
which I took out of the store, to my neighbors, and
with the balance due on the last quarter I sustained
myself until the second quarter was up. I carried
in my bill, which was over eighty dollars, that was
paid, (keeping out a balance of eight dollars) ; the sum
enabled me to meet all my back debts so that 1 was
not compelled to sit up nights to work. After com-
mencing on the third quarter, one day while dressing
shoes, Mr. Barker came on one side of me and Mr.
Wheeler on the other ; Mr. B. said, William, how
long have you been working for us? I said nearly
nine months. He said, I think you are a very honest
person. That is what I always try to be, I said. Mr.
B. said, if some men were working here and, trusted as
we trust you, they would carry off a great many dol-
lars worth of boots and shoes. I said I have no doubt
of it, some people are just so foolish ; you would cer-
tainly know if they took away any of your property.
He said, how would we know it unless we saw them?
I said, don't you have an invoice of every thing that
comes into your shop on your books, and every arti-
cle you sell is on your sales book, and when you post
your books and take an inventory of your effects,
every article that has not been sold must be in your
store, and if they are not found in your store some-
body must have taken them, and who would be accused
but me ? it would fall on my shoulders ; you have
given me liberty to take any shoes that I wanted and
charge them to myself, and I have done so, charg-
ing ^hem to my account, and when I presented my
bill you have seen the credit given of what I had



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



119



drawn. He asked me where I got this knowledge of
doing business? I said, I attended school and studied
book-keeping. He asked, how long I went to school?
I replied, until I was twenty years old. He said, no
wonder you are so well posted ; you ought to know
something about business. I want to ask you, Billy,
if you have ever taken any change out of the drawer
and forgot to tell Mr. Wheaton about it, or made
change for any one and made a mistake, as you can-
not see very well. I answered, I had not troubled
his drawer, either to get change for my own use or
any one ; I had no business with your drawer, and
if I wanted any money I should ask you for it. Mr.
Wheaton said, I told you that I didn't think William
had taken any money out of the drawer; the mistake
hes come by me, I have not been particular enough
in setting down the postage I paid out. Mr. Barker
said we have found a little discrepancy in our accounts
in posting up our books; we can't strike a balance of
four dollars and a half, and thought we would men-
tion it to you, thinking you might have taken some
change out of the drawer and forgot to mention it to
Mr. Wheaton. I worked there fifteen months, when
the firm failed and made an assignment. Thinking
business was closed with them, I made out my bill
and presented it to Mr. Barker, who said he had
closed up business, but to leave my bill and he would
settle it in a week or so ; (the amount was seventy-
one dollars). When I called to settle with them,
Mr. B. said, I have got your bill made out from the
time you commenced until you closed, embracing
fifteen months ; you have made a great mistake in



/



120 WILLIAM J. BROWN.

your bill ; we owe you a balance of twenty-two dol-
lars, and if you receipt the bill you can get your
money now. That made a reduction on my account of
forty-nine dollars. I said I didn't think I had made
any mistake. I examined his bill, and well knew there
was something about it. I asked him to let me have
ten dollars and I would go home and look over my
accounts and see what the difficulty was. He said
he would not pay a cent until he paid the whole, and
that would be when I receipted the bill. I asked him
for the bill to take home for examination and would
return it the next day. He said if I would do that I
could take it. I promised I would and took it and
went home, there copied the bill and returned it to
him the next morning, and said I would see him the
latter part of the week ; I having a copy of his bill,
and from my account, I saw that he had altered
the charges I made ; when I dressed six cases, he put
down four, and when I dressed four, he put down
two and three, and proceeded on, carrying out the
bill fifteen months. I took the amount I had received
and substracted it from the amount due, and it came
to seventy-one dollars, just like the balance on my
former bill ; I took the amount of credit he had
allowed for fifteen months, added my account with
it, which increased it forty-two dollars ; for he copied
his credit from my former bills — he just cited the
amount due me on his account and went on with the
bill, without noticing that I had reckoned the money,
and by this means I trapped him. I called again
and told him I was ready to settle, and explained to
him what he had done to deceive me. When he found



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 121

msjlf trapped, he said, well, Billy, I will settle it to
suit you and give you seventy-one dollars; he was
glad to back out in that way. I was again without
any work; I had stopped repairing shoes so long that
my customers had gone elsewhere; I went about to
see what I could find to do, when Royal Farnum met
me and said, your people have failed. I said yes, sir ;
he inquired what I was doing now? I told him. I was
trying to find something to do. He kept shop on
South Main, above Planet street, and was connected
with a Philadelphia line of packets; kept ship stores
and seamen's clothing. I went into his store and he
showed me a large number of small size boots and
shoes he could not sell (having sold his larger sizes);
he said, if you will oil, dress and sell these shoes I will
give you half you make. I accepted the offer, went
to work on them, and was kept very busy some three
months.



122



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER VIII.

Among the varied causes which came up for con-
sideration, and in which the colored people became
interested was the temperance cause. Meetings were
held and a temperance society was formed, with G. C.
Willis as President; and the more respectable young
people who were anxious to sustain a good reputation
became members of it. We commenced having lec-
tures and addresses to keep up the interest. Three of
its members were appointed very month to deliver
address. The first three that were appointed were
Geo. C. Willis, C. M. Cozzens, and myselt. I would
gladly have backed out when my turn came to speak,
but was not allowed to do so. The President gave
the first address, followed by Chas. H. Cozzens, and
mv address came last, but was said to be the best and
won the praise of the audience. Mr. Waterman came
to me with a paper, saying, » Brother Brown, we are
in need of six new lamps, three on a side. Now you
have more time than I have ; will you circulate this
paper and see what you can get. We will need
|24 " I consented, took the paper, and soon collected
sixteen dollars, and the night before the committee
were to meet I called and paid Mrs. Waterman the
money (-116), as Mr. Waterman was not in. She



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 123

was much pleased, and said she would give it to her
husband, but I had better attend the meeting myself.
I did so, and when the papers were called up no one
had anything on their papers but Bro. Waterman, who
after counting out sixteen dollars gave up his paper.
The names of the contributors were read and the
amount proved correct by the paper. Mr. Waterman
was eommended for his praiseworthy exertions in
raising so much money; he arose and said the praise
belonged to William J. Brown, for he collected the
money. Then it was moved that I should have a
vote of thanks, which was passed. Mr. Anthony
Cozzens then arose and addressing the president,
(Edward Barnes,) said that we ought to have some of
these young men on the committee to take our places,
for we are growing old and will soon pass away, and
I move that William J. Brown, Geo. C. Willis, Jr.,
and Charles H. Cozzens, be added to the committee
on the meeting house. Some one inquired if we owned
a pew, as a man must be a pew holder to be appointed
on the committee. The secretary, Anthony Cozzens,
arose and said, that Mr. Willis and Mr. Cozzens
owned pews, but he didn't know whether William J,
Brown owned one or not. I informed them that I
did not own one; but my mother owned a quarter of
a pew. Mr. Cozzens arose and said that Mr. Brown
was too valuable a young man to lose, and he made a
motion that the committee make him a present of a
pew. There was a pew, No. 47, that belonged to a
man named William Brown, who went to Hayti, and
died, and the pew became the property of" the com-
mittee according to the statute book; he moved that



124



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the committee make it a present to William J. Brown,
that he may be a pew-holder ; which was seconded
and passed unanimously. Now I move, Mr. Presi-
dent, that George C. Willis, Jr., Charles Cozzens and
Win. J. Brown be added to our committee ; this was
seconded and passed. Mr. Cozzens then moved that
the committee be discharged, which were appointed
to collect money to buy lamps, and that William J.
Brown be appointed to collect the amount for the
lamps ; the motion was seconded and passed unani-
mously. At the next meeting of the Board I made
my report, and having collected enough to procure
the lamps my report was received and a vote of thanks
given me.

It was now time to elect officers. Mr. A. Cozzens
resigned as secretary, which was received ; and I was
made secretary for the ensuing year, and the books
were passed over to me. I now began to feel the re-
sponsibility of my position ; and pledged myself to
.perform my duties to the best of my abilities, and en-
deavor to always be in my proper place at proper
times.

Among other incidents of the past which was very
unpleasant to bear, was an instance of terrible abuse,
which if it had occured at any other time would have
received a richly merited rebuka. It occured shortly
after I experienced religion. It was on a Sabbath
afternoon after church, I waited upon two ladies to
their homes. I escorted the first lady over on the
west side of the bridge, and leaving her at her home,
I returned with the other lady going down South
Main street. In passing Market Square, two young



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



125



men followed us, using improper language and were
very insulting ; we passed on taking no notice of them,
supposing they would keep down South Main street ;
we turned up Hopkins street, walking on up through
George street. They turned up the street following
close behind us, using the most abusive and vulgar
language, till at length, one of them threatened to
kick the lady I was waiting upon ; hearing that ex-
pression, I released my arm from the lady's and turn-
ing around requested them to cease such vile talk as
we had not troubled them. This only increased their
insults; but seeing me release my arm they anticipated
an attack and fell back a few feet, but kept following
up at a respectable distance. I did not want it to be
said that I was fighting the same day after I had taken
Communion ; but had made up my mind that if they
had carried that threat into execution and broke the
peace by striking or kicking to knock the first man
down, and give them a good beating. If the insult
had occurred a week or two sooner, they never would,
have been able to follow me up the hill, using such
disgraceful and abusive language. After reaching
the head of George street, we turned into Brown,
hoping soon to reach our destination on Benevolent
street. Just then a colored man came through Brown
street, an I seeing these fellows in our rear, making
motions as if to kick us, he hailed them asking, what
they were disturbing those peaceable people for?
They said they were only in fun. He told them he
had been watching them since they turned into Brown
street, and said, if you want to kick any one come
and kick me. Ke then said to them, clear out, if I
. 12*



126



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



catch you troubling those people again 1 will pitch
into you. They hurried away, and we were glad to
get rid of their company. Who they were I do not
know, but think they must have been fellows who
had heard of me, and as I h id had frequent skirmishes
on the street they wanted to test my religion. It was
a common thing for colored people to be disturbed on
the street, especially on the Sabbath. On the north
side of Market Square, in front of the Granite Build-
ing, were generally found afternoons and evenings, a
row of men stretched along in the doorways of the
stores., looking at the people as they passed, insulting
them, knocking off men's hats and pulling off ladies'
shawls and often following them as they passed to and
from church. That corner bore the name of "Scamps
Corner."

Colored people had little or no protection from the
law at those times, unless they resided with some
white gentleman that would take up their case for
them. If you were well dressed they would insult you
for that, and if you were ragged you would surely be
insulted for being so; be as peaceable as you could
there was no shield for you. One day I was going in
company with another young man to an evening
school, carrying our lamps with us which we used in
school. Two colored ladies were close behind us fol-
lowed by two white men, who ordered them off the
sidewalk, or they would kick them off. The females
fearing they would do so, went out into the street and
walked until they came on the walk near us. The
men then ordered us off. My companion gave me the
lamp and grappled with one of the men, who being a



WILLIAM J. BUOWN.



127



tall strongman, threw him into the gangway, where
he fell striking on a joint bone of an ox. He seized
the bone in one hand and leaped at the man like a
tiger, clenched him by the shirt collar and dealt him
three or four blows in his face in rapid succession,
The man cried murder, which drew around a large
crowd of people. The blood was streaming from his
face and the man who was in company with him said
that we assaulted them.

One tall well dressed man said to the people that
surrounded us, take these niggers to jail, for I have
seen enough of their actions to-day. Without further
information we were seized, and would have been
dragged off to prison and locked up, had it not been
for the timely appearance of Mr. Joseph Balch, who
came out of his apothecary shop, being well acquainted
with us both. He exclaimed, hold on, "what are
you going do with those boys?" and this would-be-
somebody, said "we are going to take them to prison,
I have seen enough of their actions today." Mr. Balch
replied, " no you won't, I know both of them, they
are nice boys." He said, "where are you going boys?"
We told told him to evening school. He said, "go
on, and nobody shall trouble you." The man said,
" why, he is beating a white man." Mr. Balch said
" well, he had no business troubling them, and if the
white man lets a boy like him beat him he ought to
be beat." We went on and the crowd dispersed.

I will now speak of our Sodety, which was called
the Young Men's Union Friendly Association. It
continued to grow and become very prosperous. I
became a very active member in it being called upon



128



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



to fill many prominent offi es, and although all our
members were married men, they still kept up the or-
ganization, proposing to get incorporated. Some op-
posed it, saying it had been tried but without success.
I did not believe any one had tried it, and knew no
reason why it should not succeed. I continued to ngi-
itate it, until finally the opposition was overcome and
a committee were appointed to draw up a petition. I
was appointed chaiiman. When the time arrived for
them to meet, not one of the committee cane. I then
went to Mr. Hamlin's store to get paper, when one
of the committee, Mr. Cozzens, said to me, "what are
you doing here ? you are a pretty fellow, get a meet-
ing appointed at your house and you in the street." I
said, I waited until the hour we were to meet, and no
one came, so I came down to get some paper and am
going right back. When I get home I am going to
write a petition for a charter for our society, and if you
have a mind to come, ail right, but if not you can re-
main here. He went with m • to the meeting. I
wrote the petition and gave it to him, and he gave it
to Mr. Wingate Hayes to carry into the general assem-
bly, and was noticed in the papers. The society ex-
pressed great surprise at our next meeting to find that
our petition had gone into the general assembly, and
at the next meeting I had the pleasure of informing
them that our charter was granted. It was the first
charter ever granted to a colored society of Rhode
Island. The society were proud that they had made
such an advancement, and proposed having a banner
and paying a visit to some place where we could show
ourselves. Some of our members went to a man on



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



129



Westminster street who did that kind of painting,
and asked what he would charge to paint a banner for
our society. Ho inquired about the society, and was
told that we had just been chartered. He wanted to
see our constitution. We let him see it, and after ex-
amining our charter he said that he wouLl get us up a
banner for fifteen dollars, but did not wish to have it
known as he would paint one for auyone for less than
fifty dollars. He got us up one with a house and a
weeping willow on one side, over which was a star and
the letters Y. M. U. F. Society, institute 1 1828, and
on the other side was a white and colored man joined
hands with a flag staff between them, bearing the
American flag and encircled by a wreath, having at
the bottom the word Union, and above the wreath in
a semi-circle form were the words Young Men's Union
Friend Society, incorporated January, 1814.

Our uniform was black 'caps, with glazed tops. On
the left breast was a gilt star with a blue ribbon at-
tached, and cream colored patent leather belts with a
brass clasp in front, and white pants, dress coats, and
white gloves. They made a contract with Mr. Corn-
stock, master of transportation, to carry us at half
price. On the morning of the first we started with a
large company. It was quite foggy, and rained hard
before we reached New Bedford. They had postponed
the celebration until the next day. The committee
were in waiting for us at the depot, as the rain had
ceased, and escorted us up, our banner being covered.
Ths day was clear and bright, and at half-past nine
we marched to the place where the line was to be
formed. The procession moved at ten a. m., having a



130



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



cavalcade of one hundred mounted men in front, fol-
lowed by the Anti-s'avery societies, then our society,
making a fine appearance. We marched to the Town
Hall, escorted in and welcomed by the citizens. Af-
ter being addressed by some of the officials the line
was again formed and made a parade through some
of the principal streets. We then repaired to the
grove. A stage was prepared for the speakers and
music. The society appointed me as the orator. It
was a warm day and we had had a long march. 1 said
to Mr. Cozzens, let us find some retired place where
we could sit in the shade for awhile. We started to
look for some comfortable place, and seeing an empty
buggy near by we stepped into it and soon fell asleep.
I don't know how long we slept, but the gentleman
and lady who owned the buggy came and woke us,
saying, gentlemen: "if you have no objections we
will take our carriage." We excused ourselves for
taking so much liberty, saying "we were tired and had
fallen asleep." On seeing us we were told that they
had been looking for us ; that they had been looking
for the orator from Providence, but h ? could not be
found. I went with them to the stand, ready to take
my turn in speaking. The band struck up as I was
going on the platform. Just then the stage broke; as
dinner was ready, and the day far advanced, they con-
cluded not put the stage up again, but finish speaking
in the hall, in the evening. The next morning we
went home well pleased with our visit. After we got
our charter, the Young Men's Friendly Assistant So-
ciety, and the Seaman's Friend Society, applied tor an
act of incorpoiation and received charters. We then



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 131

had three incorporated Societies in our city, besides
The Mutual Relief, The Young Men's Morning Star,
The Temperance Society and the Ami- Slavery Socie-
ties, making in ad seven active societies, ready to
unite on any occasion requiring their services. They
were called out every year on the first of August, as
we generally had a grand demonstration on that
day, with a procession which par ,ded the principal
streets of the city, and retired to a grove and spent the
day in speaking and partaking of refreshments.

The young men of our city were trying to get up a
baud, and were very anxious to have me to be their
leader ; I partly made up my mmd to join it. Several
had bought their instruments and were waiting for me
to practice with them. They sent a man to my shop
with a bugle to sell ; he called and exhibited the bugle,
telling me the price. I told him I would send him
word the next week, and if I concluded to take it, I
would send him the money with the man carrying the
word. After he left, I went to Leonard Brown's shop,
the man that told me, when at the anxious seat, that
if I came with a sincere purpose they would all pray
for me. On entering, I said, Bro. B.own, I want to
ask you something, and I want you to tell me the truth.
He asked me what I wanted to know. I said, "Is
there any harm for a christian belonging to a band and
playing on an instrument." He said, « no harm at all,
if you can serve God on it." I said, "is there any sin in
it?" He said, "no sin in anything you can do, if you
can praise God by it, that is the point you must decide.
Now you know whether you can praise God by it or
not." I said that 1 did not know as I could panic-



132



WILLIAM J. BROWis.



ularly praise God by it. Then lie said, " Brown, if
you join that band you are going to play for anybody
that hires you, and if your band is hired our to play
vou have got to play songs, nobody wants hymns." If
you belong to a band you have to spend an hour or
two every day to practice, and you practice on songs
not hymns. Now if the Lord called on you when you
were practicing songs you wouldn't be in a fit state
to receive him, would you?" I told him, "No, sir."
He then said, "don't meddle with anything that you
should be ashamed to answer the Lord for, it' he
should call on you." I thanked him for his advice, and
told him I had my doubts about it, and that was the
reason I came to him. But now I am perfectly satis-
fied and I will have nothing to do with it. I then told
the bandmen that I had been converted and united
with the church, and that as a christian, felt it
my duty to tell them that as a christian I had no
right to belong to a band, and that as they did not pro-
fess to be christians, and if they felt disposed to form
a band they had a perfect right to do so, and I wished
them success. But if I joined them I would be a hin-
drance to them and their prosperity; instead of a
blessing, I would be to them a curse. They said they
didn't know but what I was right, and they would
release me. Having got rid of the band, I went to
the society and told them that I could not be with them
as I had formerly, for my church duties demanded my
services and attention, especially on Tuesday even-
ing, but at any other time when I could meet with
them and not infringe on my church obligations and
duties, I would be with them, and serve them ac .ord-



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



183



ing to the best of my ability. The society was
well satisfied, saying they would not have me in-
terfere with my Christian duties. Thus I freed
myself from the various causes which had entangled
me in the past.

12



*



134



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER IX.



I often thought when a mere youth that I would
like to be a christian and belong to a church, and fill
some important position of usefulness, but I had little
or no idea of the responsibility of such a position.
My mind at times had been very deeply impressed
with a sense of my sinfulness and the importance of
trying to save my soul, but I liked to keep such things
to myself, and I did not like to have any one contin-
ually asking me why I did not try to pray ? At one
time when recovering from a severe illness, feeling my
health improving, I called on my sister who inquired
very particularly after my health ; after I told her
what I had undergone, she told me I had better pre-
pare myself to die, for everybody said I would go off
in one of those attacks, and if the Lord took me off in
one of those attacks I should be lost. This made me
very angry, and I told her that people had better
mind their own business and not be telling about me;
I did not meddle with other people's business. I
used some profane language in this remark, which
shocked my sister much, for she had never heard me
make use of such language before. She said, go on,
young man ; if you will not take advice the devil will
soon have you ; you are making your way down to



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



135



destruction. I arose and left the house, intending to
go home, but the words of my sister rang in my ears,
for I knew they were too true ; it was high time for
me to alter my course ; then came to me the promises
I had made when on board the Venus, that if I lived
to get home, I would attend to the saving of my soul.
I knew that God would not be trifled with, and every
attack of sickness told me plainly that there would
be the last attack. In a few days I had another attack
much more severe than the last one, so severe that my
folks dispaired of keeping life in me ; my father and
brother left off work and came home in the after-
noon, thinking it impossible for me to live ; when I
recovered from this attack I said, live or die, I would
spend my time striving to get right before God.
There had been a protracted meeting carried on in
our meeting house by Rev. John W. Lewis, who had
recently organized a Free Will Baptist Church in our
house of worship ; I attended the meetings and aban-
doned the idea of going away, thinking that I would
first attend to the welfare of my soul. I tried to look
into my case and see what my life had been that I
was so awful sinful. I was not aware that I had been
very bad ; I tried to keep the Sabbath by going to
meeting when it was convenient, and that was gene-
rally every Sabbath, and I thought my conduct was as
good as the common run of christians ; it was true I
liked to tell big stories for amusement, and found
that christians liked to hear stories told and some-
times tell them themselves ; I never intended to lie
unless I was obliged to, and that christian people
would do ; I tried to be honest and not to steal ; and



136



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



did not fight unless I was abused, and that christian
people would do ; and on the whole, I did not think
that I was much worse than people belonging to meet-
ing ; but after all, reasoning in this manner did not
calm my feelings or bring peace to my mind. I
thought if I should die in one of my attacks, accord-
ing to the word of God, which I had read, that manner
of reasoning would not stand, and if all the church
acted bad, it would not excuse me. I knew I was not
righteous but wicked, and the word of God declared
that the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the
nations that forget God. Now I could not perceive
any possible way of shunning hell ; my case was liable
to be decided on any attack of sickness I had, and if
that decided my fate, my doom was fixed, and my
only escape was the short intervals between the attacks.
I concluded that I had no time to lose, so I fully made
up my mind that I would attend the meetings and
make every effort that lay in my power to save my
soul. I went in company with some boys to the
meeting house, and there heard the pastor preach a
■discourse, after which the meeting was turned into a
prayer and conference meeting ; three or four pews
were cleared for the anxious to be seated in, and the
invitation was given, that all those who wanted to get
religion to take those seats and the members would
pray for them. Several persons went forward to be
prayed for. I felt inclined to go, but could not move;
the members commenced singing, " Turn to the Lord
and seek salvation ; " I said to myself that after they
had finished singing I would go up for needed pray-
ers. The people ceased singing, then the minister



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



137



said, I want every one that can pray to come up to
these pews and pray for these people that their sins
may be forgiven, for the scriptures saith, " that the
effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous availeth
much." Some three or four prayers were made by the
brethren in their behalf, after which two or three
verses were sung; during the singing, Wm. Bowen,
who was sitting beside me, said, let us go up. I said
you start and I will follow. He arose and I followed.
The young men sitting at the head of the pew flung
the door back with such force that it aroused every
one's attention to us standing. We walked out and
toward the anxious seats ; my struggle was so great to
get up that 1 reeled to and fro like a man intoxicated ;
we took seats prepared for us, and the brethren united
in prayer in our behalf; the anxious were weeping
and praying when the service closed. Several of the
brethren came and talked with the anxious ; one
Leonard Brown, a licensed preacher, came to me and
said : " Mr. Brown, you have got good learning,
and you can read the Bible for yourself, and if you
have come here to get these brethren to pray for you
in order to make fun, it will be the means of sinking
you into perdition. But if you want these brethren
to pray for you for the Lord to forgive you your sins,
they will do it cheerfully and God will have mercy
on you." I told him I did not come there for the sake
of making sport, I was in earnest. Then he said, we
will remember your case in our prayers.

After the close of the meeting I returned home,
feeling that I needed the prayers of christians. I
resorted^to my bible, and turning over to a chapter



138



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



in Matthew, my eye fell upon these words, " Ask and
it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and it
shall be opened : for every one that asketh receiveth,
and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocks,
it shall be opened to him." There was no passage
in the chapter that I could realize the meaning of
except that. I then fell on my knees and asked God
to forgive me of my sins, and retired to my bed, but
lay awake apart of the night trying to pray and
thinking of the right way to ask God. In the morn-
ing when I awoke my anxiety had all left me, and a
thought arose in my mind that I had made a complete
fool of myself by going to the anxious seat, as they
called it, and having the people there to pray for me ;
and the only thing I could do now was to keep away
from the meetings and not go near them any more.
Scarcely had those thoughts entered my mind than
they were followed by another; by that I knew I was a
sinner, and had never offered one prayer to God
acknowledging that I was a sinner and asking for his
forgiveness ; and as I had already made a beginning
I had better go on and have the case set tied at once,
and I would not be in a safe situation until I did. I
arose and dressed myself, fell on my knees and asked
God to show me my sins, that I might realize the
nature of them and might better know how to get
free from them. After which I went to my work as
I had a great deal to do that day, but soon found
myself unfit for work, for God showed me just what
I was, a miserable sinner, having no claims upon him
for his mercy ; all I had ever done was against God,
and that I had no real love for him or his people, and



"WILLIAM J. BROWN. 139

was unworthy to take his name with my sinful lips. I
tried to read and I tried to pray, but could not get a
feeling that God would forgive me. That evening I
went to the meeting and to the anxious seat ; several
brethren came to talk with me, asking me how 1 felt.
I told them that I was a miserable sinner, and could
find no relief. Some told me to keep on and not give
up the struggle and I would find relief; some told
me I must have faith, and some told me I must pray
for myself. The next man that talked with me was
Winsor Gardiner, the oldest Deacon and the oldest
man in the church, who feigned to know the most of
them all about church governments. When the
brethren talked with me I would rise up to see who
they were, but when Bro. Gardiner spoke to me of
the way, he would always drop his eyes down, as
though he did not wish to look me in the face, and
assumed an appearance of being absent-minded or
indifferent about the subject. Mr. James Johnson
also talked with me ; he seemed as deeply interested
as if carrying a part of my burden. After the pastor
had finished his remarks, the brethren and sisters
engaged in a prayer and conference meeting, inter-
spersed with singing ; before closing, an inquiry meet-
ing was held, commencing at four o'clock, in the
school-room. I went home that evening determined to
keep on striving. The next morning I arose and went
down to pray anew, hoping to find the Saviour. I gave
up all work and spent my time in reading, meditation
and prayer. I did not care to see any company nor
take any nourishment ; I remained at the shop until
Mme to go to the inquiry meeting ; when I reached



140



WILLIAM J. BEOWN.



the meeting many brethren inquired if I had found
any peace yet. I answered, no. When the meeting
opened the pastor came and spent some ten or fifteen
minutes endeavoring to instruct me. Some who had
been seeking, had found peace to their souls, and tes-
tified to the happiness they enjoyed. After the meet-
ing closed I went home ; mother seemed quite alarmed
because I would not take any nourishment, saying I
had better try to eat a little of something ; I must
have something to sustain me. I took a little tea and
bread, more to satisfy her than my appetite, for I had
none ; after praying, I retired. The next morning I
continued in prayer. The scripture I first read, and
which rested on my mind, was " Seek and ye shall
find." I believed that passage to be true, and that I
should find, if I had not committed some unpardona-
ble sin; I tried to think what awful sin that I had
committed ; I knew I had not killed any one, but false-
hoods I had told a good many; falsehoods, however,
I did not consider to be unpardonable. Whenever
I was attacked, which frequently happened, I would
defend myself— I was seldom the aggressor — and
I did not think that was unpardonable, for every one
would defend themselves ; still, I believed that some-
thing was wrong, and until that wrong was removed,
whatever it might be, I might go on day after day
and make no advancement. I spent that day look-
ing over my past life, and praying and reading. I
went to the inquiry meeting in the afternoon, think-
ing I might pick up something that would bring peace
to my troubled soul. I had conversation with the
pastor and some of the brethren, but found no relief.



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 141

I went home and found mother troubled again, because
I did not eat — I was troubled about the sin and guilt
I was carrying. The next morning 1 determined to
make greater effort to ascertain why my prayers were
not heard ; I knew they were not heard, otherwise I
would have some relief ; I thought, perhaps the rea-
son was I did not pray aright, so I endeavored to
change my mode of praying, but that did not bring
relief to my mind. In the afternoon I went to the
inquiry meeting, and two young ladies, «bout twelve
and fourteen years of age, got up aad testified that
God had removed their sins and they were happy. I
then thought there was no chance for me, every one
could get religion but me. I could find no peace, but
the brethren encouraged me to persevere, and not give
up ; I told them I would keep on praying. On my
way home an elderly brother met me, took my hand
and asked if I had found peace yet ? I told him I had
been striving several, days, but found no peace. He
said, I pray to God you never will until He sets you
free, for he will give you the right kind of peace. I
did not understand this, for I expected every one
would speak to encourage me, but he was an old mem-
ber and I believed what he said was true, although I
did not understand wha! he meant. I tried to thing
while on my way home, what could be the cause of
this delay. I had tried everything that I knew of
and given up everything, and was willing, to do any-
thing I could to bring peace to my mind ; I was not
afraid to tell any one my feelings who would give me
instructions. J ust then a thought ran across my mind
like some one whispering in my ear, saying, do you



B



142



WILLIAM J* BROWN.



want religion enough to go down on Market square
and pray, if by so doing you could get it. I could not
say yes to this thought. I at once saw that there was
pride in my heart yet, and I could not find peace while
it remained ; so turning my eyes toward heaven I said,
Lord I am willing to do anything I can to have my
sins forgiven. When I said that, a light as large as the
full moon shone in my face, and a voice spoke within
me, saying, thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven.
I looked around iu amazement for a few minutes, for
it seemed as if everything was changed ; the fields
and the trees looked delightful and seemed to be
praising God ; for a while I could not tell whether I
was dreaming or awake ; my heaviness was gone, and
my soul was filled with joy; everything seemed lovely
and beautiful ; I had never enjoyed or had any con-
ception of such a feeling before ; it was indescriba-
ble. I hastened home and as I entered the house I
was so changed in appearance from what I had been
for several days, mother noticed it, and she said,
inquisitively, William, how happy you look. I said
I am, soul and body, and I thank the Lord for his
goodness to me. She said now you will set down
and eat something, won't you? I told her I would
try, but didn't feel much like eating, for I was happy.
I felt as if I would go to the church and tell every
body how happy I felt. I could then see the reason
why I couldn't g&t the blessing before. Instead of
giving myself into the hands of the Lord, as I ought
to have done, I was too reserved in my efforts, and
thought I was doing something when I was doing
nothing. I started on my way to to the church, feel-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



143



ing anxious to tell my feelings to the brethren, but,
before reaching the church, a thought came in mind
that I had better not be too fast and sure, for I might,
probably, be deceived ; my change of feelings might
arise from being convicted and not converted. I
paused for a while and tried to sum up my feelings of
heaviness, which had separated from me but a short
time before. But that despondent feeling could not
be found. Joy had taken its place, and I loved every
one, and was anxious to tell them how I felt, and how
suddenly the change came upon me, when I was on
my way home. When I arrived at the meeting-house
I was met by the brethren who grasped my hand and
said, you have met with a change? I asked how
they knew ? they said by the looks of your counte-
nance. I told them how I had found the Saviour. I
was on Prospect street between Lloyd and Jenckes
streets, when he spoke peace to my soul and my bur-
den left me. The countenances of the brethren were
lit up with cheerfulness, and the very atmosphere
seemed to indicate love. The same evening many
others also told what the Lord had done for their
souls.

After the close of the protracted meetings we were
all invited to the church meeting ; there we related
our experience, telling what first caused us to seek
religion. After hearing our experience we were all
received into the church as candidates for baptism;
that ordinance was administered on the second Sun-
day in April, 1835, and the same afternoon, for the
first time, I partook of the Lord's Supper with the
church.



144



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER X.

Soon after this my pastor called to see me, and
wanted that I should study for the ministry, saying
that a gentleman requested him to get two colored
young men who were advanced in education to study.
He promised to clothe and board them, and give them
a thorough education at his own expense ; and he
wanted two white young men, as nearly equally qual-
ified as he could find them, and he was going to do
the same by them; for he wanted to see if the colored
young men were susceptible of attaining to as high a
degree of intellectual culture as the white young men,
as it was stated by some that they w 7 ere not, and as
he was a wealthy man he meant to solve this question
and know for himself if nature was any more defective
in the colored race. Now I notice that you are
well advanced in literature ; I have tried several of
the brethren of our church, and know that some of
you must have had a call to preach. Have you never
felt, Bro. Brown, that you could do more good in ex-
tending our Saviour's kingdom by preaching the gos-
pel and laboring for the good of souls, than you can
by setting here in your shop working. I told him
that I had, and sometimes felt that I ought to
give up working and go round talking and laboring



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 145

for the good of souls, but I have never heard any one
call me to preach, and nothing like a call, that I
must leave off as a duty involved on me, as I could
read the Bible and explain it to those who could not
read. People would get the Bible wrong and think
it was right, and would put such construction on it
that it would do more harm than good. He said, "now
for the past six months I have spoken about it, at the
church-meetings and roundabout, and you have heard
me, and never told how your mind was." I have heard
you several times speak about it, you spoke about a
call; I didn't know what you meant ; supposing that
a call meant an audible voice, and that I knew I had
never heard. He said "no ; an impression of the mind
is what we term a call and now if you will go I will
write to-morrow." I told him if had known it six '
months ago I would have went ; but I have made up
my mind to get married in three months' time, and
can't alter it. He said, I am very sorry, but won't the
lady change the time if you would go and state the
case to her. I said that, I didn't think she would.
He said, "Bro. Brown, suppose you go and try; if you
don't want to go for four years go for two years, which
will be all the better for you when you once get
through." By continually persuading me I finally
agreed. I would make the statement to her, and if
she would agree to postpone the time I would let him
know the next day. That evening I visited my in-
tended, and told her a proposition had been made
to me. She asked me what it was. I told her that
Mr. Rollins wanted me to work for him a couple of
years, give up my shop, and he would learn me so that

13



146



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



I would be such a workman that no man in this town
could beat me ; and he is considered to be the best
workman in the town. I told him I expected to be
married in three months; and he told me to ask you
if ycu would put it off a couple of years, so that I
could finish my trade and make a good workman. I
told him if you would agree to it I would come and
work for that length of time. Miss Slain asked,
" Do you not have plenty of work at your shop?"
I said "yes, as much as I can do." "Then," she
said, "as we have set the time, I think we had better
not put if off." I said "very well, it shall be as you
say, we won't put it off, and I won't go." I had been
and made a false statement to her, so fixed that I
could have an answer to give to the people an I to my
pastor. If I had asked the question right, as I should
have done, no doubt but that she would have agreed
to it. I knew, however, that in the way I had stated
it, she would not. I thought that if I went to study two
or four years some one might cut me out, and then my
studying would do me no good, for I had a very exalted
opinion of her accomplishments, and I believed in the
old saying, "that a bird in. the hand is worth two in the
bush," so I concluded not to accept his offer. The next
day the pastor called, and I told him I could not accept
his very generous offer; my lady was not willing, so I
felt it my duty to fulfill my engagement. He received
this news with regret and went away. After I had
made this decision I became gloomy, followed by a
low depression of spirits which hung over me where,
ever I went. The happiness I once enjoyed had fled.
I felt condemned. I could not talk about religion



WILLTAM J. BROWN. 147

with any comfort or joy. If I staid away from church
I was miserable, and if r attended I could not enjoy
the meeting.. Nor was this all, my work (ell off, some
customers left me, others wouldn't pay, and I became
so st aightened in circumstances that [ was compelled
to give up my shop and move to the house, for r could
not pay my rent ; still, my affairs did not change for
the better, work disappeared. I became so involved
in debt for rent and groceries, tint I neaily lost my
credit, iior for two years after we were married was
my wife able to obtain any work, and we knew not
what to do to remedy the case. I was satisfied thas
these adverse circumstances was the result of trying
to deceive others regarding my convictions of duty.
To change the matter now was out of my power ;
however, I resolved with myself with the help of the
Lord, if he would forgive my past wrong doings to
follow the teachings of his Spirit. For two years I
was unable to take up my cress as a Christian, but
now I resolved to neglect my duty no longer. The
n xt Sunday I went to church, determined to do my
duty. After the meeting was opened by our pastor,
who spoke some twenty minutes, he gave way for any
one who felt a desire to pray or give an exhortation
to do so. I immediately engaged in prayer, and con-
tinued praying for some time, and many were affected
by that prayer ; the pastor remarked that that was the
|rst time he had heard me in prayer for more than
two years. "I knew Brother Brown was a christian,
because he said he was ; but now I know he is a chris-
tian because I have gained him as a brother, and there
are many in this church at present that I have not



148



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



gained as brethren. I only know you are christians
because you say so."

The interest of the church had been dwindling
until it was very low, and the membership had de-
creased from sixly to forty, and an average attendance
on the Sabbath was about two-thirds that number ;
our weekly attendance was from five to seven. I at-
tended the meetings regularly, and took up my cross,
speaking and praying for the space of three weeks,
when a thought came across my mind that I had
better cease speaking, for there was such a thing as a
person being too forward, and I had already satisfied
the minds of the brethren that I was alive, and with
them in labor, and now I could slacken my exertions.
If I continued on I might run myself out. I was re-
flecting upon these thoughts when another thought
came to me, which was, if God had kept me all this
time he was able to keep me all the time, and I
need not entertain any fears or doubts, for God will
attend to his own work. Upon this my doubts and
fears were dismissed, and I continued in the discharge
of my duty. My sickness, which was severe, attack-
ing me every three weeks, had entirely gone. This
surprised me, and I believed God had used this method
to prevent my strajdng away in answer to the prayers
and labors of my mother. Just before her death some
of the church members told her to take her mind off
of her family and place it on Jesus, and give her chil-
dren into the hands of the Lord. So she, calling
brother and myself to her bedside, said, obey
father and be good children for she was going to die
and wouhl leave us in God's care ; and I believe if I



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 149

had not been afflicted so often I should have left home,
wandered abroad, formed new acquaintances and ex-
posed myself to the various snares which entraps
young men. But my afflictions kept me from wan-
dering and impressed upon me the necessity of being
prep ired for death. The interest of our church
seemed to weaken, notwithstanding the increasing
efforts of our pastor, with a few brethren to keep it up.
At last he got discouraged and left the church, saying
the church could not prosper in that house, there was
something wrong about it, but if we would hire another
place he would preach for us. Many of the brethren
were of the same opinion, but made no charge. We
were now without a pastor, and we were obliged to
depend sometimes upon the students, the ministry in
Brown University, and sometimes on our own re-
sources. At last the Lord sent Jeremiah Asher among
us, a licientiate Baptist preacher, belonging to a
church in Hartford, Conn., whose pastor was Rev.
Henry J ackson, formerly of Providence, to get an
education that would fit him for his ministerial duties.
He came and commenced his studies. The church
procured his services during the time he was to remain
here. He charged nothing for his labors, knowing
their means were limited ; but advised them to get
the colored brethren belonging to the several white
churches to unite with them that they might be able
to support the gospel and get a good minister to labor
among them. The church followed his advice, call-
ing a meeting of the colored brethren for that purpose.
They agreed to unite together, become a regular Bap-
tist Church, and have a public recognition. When

14*



150



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the time came for the service to take place, a large
portion of the number did not come, but hired a place
to hold their meetings, and continued their service as
a Free Will Baptist Church, thus having two churches
in existence at the same time, a Calvinist, and Freewill
Baptist Church of color. The number who responded
to the call were George C. Willis, Robert A. Lin-
coln, Charles Gorham, William Howard, James John-
son, George Waterman, William J. Brown, Betsey
Hammond and Esther Tabor, nine in all, and they were
recognized by the council at the Meeting street Bap-
tist Church. Mr. Jeremiah Asher having previously
accepted the call of the church, was by request of
the council presented and related his christian expe-
rience, call to the ministry, and views of Bible doc-
trine, all of which were satisfactory to the council.
He was ordained and installed in the evening of the
same day. The church was recognized December 8th,
1840. The Methodist people tried to form a church
and build a house for worship, but could not agree
where to locate the house, some wishing to build on
Gaspee street, where many poor people lived and
some of bad reputation ; those opposed to that location
bought and built them a house on Meeting street. The
Episcopal people leased a lot on the north end of
Union street, and built them a very handsome place
of worship, making three colored churches in our city.
Our church was flourishing and rapidly increased in
numbers ; our officers were Jeremiah Asher, pasfor ;
George C. Willis, Zadi Jones and George Waterman,
deacons; Willliam J. Brown, clerk. J Our committee
were Charles Gorham, James Johnson, William How-



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



151



ard, Robert A. Landers and William J. Brown ; our
Treasurer, George C. Wiillis. We enjoyed peace and
harmony in the church. I was changed for the better,
both spiritually and temporally.



152



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER XII.

My present subject is rather a delicate one, and yet
those of my readers who are acquainted with the di-
veisified movements in this pathway of expectant joy.
will have some realizing sense of the seeming hinder-
ance, that of times checks the progress of the delighted
aspirants.

I have previously remarked that the colored people
have but very little chance to elevate themselves to a
position of influence and wealth, and I determined to
travel until I could find a brighter prospect for the
future than Providence. I found, however, that there
was a very formidable hindrance blocking up my path-
way. I had made the acquaintance of a young lady
schoolmate while attending school. This acquaintance
was not formed for any special purpose, but simply to
have some one to spend my leisure hours with. I
madeita practice to call twice a week, as I was remark-
ably fond of being in the society of ladies. The
reason I did not want to make a wife of her then was,
because I was not able to support her, having no per-
manent business that would warrant me a living, and
thought it better for one to be miserable than two. I
had been waiting upon her some two years, and
thought I would break off the easiest way I could. I



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



153



commenced by making short visits when I called, say-
ing I could not stay long, as I had some engagement
that called me away, at the same time watching to see
the effect it would produce. I found it created a wor-
riment of mind, making her very inquisitive. The
next step was to omit a visit at the regular time. This
brought forth questions I could not answer satisfacto-
rily without telling a falsehood; finally I knew not
what to do, for my visits had aroused a passion in my
heart and mind I could not smother. I was also sat-
isfied that if I wished to make a companion of her for
life I could find no one with more attractions in per-
sonal appearances, qualifications or ability, than she
possessed in my weak judgment. The question was,
however, soon decided with me, for the time was fast
approaching when I must settle on the subject of my
departure. I was taken suddenly ill, suffering much
from pain, which I could not account for. I had eaten
nothing to cause it. It continued increasing until I
was compelled to shut up my shop and go home. This
was before my mother's death, and she was an excel-
lent nurse,and at once continued to all do she could for
my relief. I had repeated attacks, each one becoming
more severe, until I was compelled to give up the idea
of going away, and I was fearful that I would be at-
tacked with the same complaint, and if were among
strangers who knew not what to do, I might lose my
life, so I contented myself to stay at home. I had said
nothing to my intended or any one else about going
away, but had merely said that if people could not
prosper in one place they had better move to another -
the world was large enough to make a selection, which



154



WILLIAM BROWN.



would lie the most favorable to our interest. I have
previously remarked that I made this young lady's ac-
quaintance while attending Mr. Anthony's school. She
w is one of the two Mr. Anthony spoke so disrespect-
ful about when trying to quell a disturbance between
them. At the close of the afternoon session of the
school that day, I waited upon her home for the first
time, and wished Mr. Anthony to see that I was es-
corting her, so that if he used such language to her
again [ \\ ould show myself interested in her behalf, for
I considered it an honor to defend the ladies in any
respectable cise, an I they in t un alwiys paid me a
distinguished respect for my kindness and politeness
Now the question to be sett'ed was, would she accept
me for a husband. I could not boast of any beauty
and was near-sighted. Uniting in wedlock was no
small thing to consider ; its conditions extended
through life. In making up her mind these defects
might make her change her opinion of me. S'.ie
might think it for her interest to m iny a tu m blessed
with good eyesight; if anything happened after mar-
riage it would be something out of her power to ob-
viate. I prized my g >od education highly, for it wasiu
my favor ; it excelled that of my associates at this time,
an 1 if anything, present or future, could be accom-
plished by it, the means were in my pose«iori. I also
prized the good character I bore, for I was held in es-
teem by the elderly people for industry and politeness-
Th ■ young people had a good opinion of me, because I
was well sp »ken of by the <-ged ; having a knowledge
of the estimate placed upon my character, I thought
my defects would not be noticed. I now felt that the



"WILLIAM J. BROWN. J55

time had come for me to settle this question, for it
had long bee.) a source of trouble to mo. I had made
her frequent visits and enj yed myself much in her
society. Now I desi.ed to know something of her
personal appearance during the day, when engaged in
her domestic affairs To accomplish this I would drop
something during the evening, which would cause
me to call after during the next day. I wou'd go at
different hours for the things. Jt was common for
ladies to be prepared lor company during the evening ;
then one could find no fault with their appearance ;
bub to my satisfaction I always found her in trim,
dressed according to her work. I considered her
every way qualified, so far as domestic affairs were con-
cerned, to make a suitable companion for any one,
whether in hLjh or low degree, and every ouj spoke'
well of her character. Her temper was mi! J, and
there was but few who could equal her in look;, be-
sides she enjoyed the best of health, h ivm; a c image
and appearance >vell calculated to sustain it. Thus hav-
ing the matter settled in my own mind, I found no
Just cause to prevent us from getting married. I went
and brought matters to a close respecting our union
in just three months from that day. Tue varied inci-
dents which had been thrown in my way had made
its impression upon my mind, and my views in regard
to the future were entirely changed. Instead of making
preparations to go out and see the world, I decided
to settle down at home ; my business was gojd aud
increasing every day, everything seemed to warrant
my success in supporting a family if I had one.



156



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER XIII.

In this chapter I propose to speak of the excitement
which often prevailed on the subject of politics, which
would occasionally arise to disturb the quiet of our
city, and increase hard feeling between the whites and
colored, and between the whites themselves. Party
spirit oftentimes arisies to so great a height that it
becomes necessary at times to call out the military to
quell disturbances and protect the participants in their
struggles for right. The time of which I now speak
was when their arose a strong contention between the
Free Soil party and the Suffrage party which lasted
for some time after much excitement. The Suffrages
party became very quiet and resorted to other means
to carry out their projects. Some united with the
Free Soil party, claiming to be Abolitionist, others
fell back to the Democratic ranks, and made prepera-
tions to attack and break up the law and order party.
The colored voters numbering three or four hundred
were the balance of power between the two parties,
but as the colored voters helped them through their
struggles the party brought them into the Constitu-
tion as legal voters, and held a claim upon them for
assistance, but the colored people began to loose their
interest in voting. The law was that all tickets should



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 157

be enclosed in an envelope and the name of the voter
placed on the outside before being deposited. Many
colored voters were not able to write their names, and
disliked getting some one at the town house to write
for them, and so refused to vote on that account, the
Law and Order party became weakened thereby. Mr.
Henry L. Bowen, chairman of the central committee,
learning the cause of the colored votes falling of, by
the advice of some colored voters hired a room oppo-
site the town house where they had their tickets pre-
pared without being exposed to the public. The
committee hired James Hazzard to look after them.
Mr. Hazzard was a man who liked to have people think
he was worth twice as much as he really was. He un-
dertook to bring the colored voters, to the polls and got
Charles Cozzens and Charles Gorham, men of influ-
ence, Jo help him. Mr. Gorham asked how many in
my society I could get to vote for the Law and Order
party. I said I could not tell, but would see. He said
the party were falling off, and the Democratic party
were increasing. I found I could get the greater part
of our society to sustain the party. I informed Mr.
Gorham of my success. He said if I could get all their
votes on election day I would be paid for it. I went
to work and on election morning 1 went to the room
we hired for the voters to meet in. Mr. Balch was
there to do the writing, and I was there to see that my
men voted right. Messrs. Gorham and Cozzens were
present to attend to the part assigned them. James
Hazzard asked Mr. Gorham if our voters would come
up strong. Mr. Gorham said yes. This question was
asked by several, when Cozzens said, if Brown says



158



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



they will come, they will. I spent the whole day in
this work, and was successful. I was paid two dollars
for my work. The next year, just before election, Mr.
Boweu called and wanted me to do what I could the
coming election. Mr. Cozzens told him I was an ex-
cellent hand for that purpose, and wished me to write
for those who could not write, and see that their tickets
were right ; he had hired the same room he had last
year, and would ask Deacon Willis to assist. I agreed
to serve them and commenced looking for voters. On
election day I was on hand, and when the polls opened
Mr- Bowen brought me some tickets and envelopes
and we were prepared for business. We were getting
along finely, when Henry Bibb, from Tennessee, came
in. He had taken an excursion from home and had
never seen fit to go back again. He saw the Free Soil
ticket spread out, which gentlemen of that pirty left
for distribution. Mr. Bibb was nearly white, and knew
well what slavery was. Taking up a liberty ticket he
said, "I hope the colored people will sustain this tick-
et" Several of our people being present ana know-
ing that that ticket was nothing more than Democratic
bait to draw off the colored voters, came down with
vengeance on the tickets, much to the great surprise
of Bibb. The discussion drew many people both
white and colored, and during the discussion the Dem-
ocrats threw hotshot at us, saying that we voted for
crackers and cheese. When any colored man came
to lecture they would say the same. When Frederick
Douglass paid us a visit, I met him ,in company with
several brethren, and he was introduced to me as a
Methodist preacher. He said he had heard we were



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



159



bought up on election day on crackers and cheese.
He received his information from an Abolitionist in
the Democratic party. It came about in this way :
When the colored people were first called upon to vote
to see whether the people wanted a constitution or
not, the Suffrage party threatened to mob any colored
person daring to vote that day. We proposed to meet
at the old artillery gun house the day before. We
had a meeting that evening and thought it best to get
the people together and keep them over night, so they
would be ready for the polls in the morning. In order
to keep them we must have something to eat, for if the
Democrats got hold of them we could not get them
to vote, for they would get them filled up with rum so
that we could not do a thing with them ; so in order to
to secure them we had to hunt them up, bring them
to the armory, and keep men there to entertain them.
I met with them in the afternoon and found men of
all sorts, from all parts of the city, and all associating
together. They had ooffee, crackers, cheese and shaved
beef. During the time a lot of muskets were brought
in, and put in a rack. It is said they were brought in
to use in case of a disturbance ; some said good
enough, let them come. They scraped the hollow
and every place, getting all the men they could find ;
then coffee, crackers and cheese were plenty, and no*
one disturbed them. When the polls were opened,
those in the first ward went to vote in a body, headed
by two powerful men. They voted in the Benefit
street school house ; the officers went ahead to open
the way. They all voted and then went home, that
ended the crackers and cheese. Mr. Bibb tried hard



160



WILLIAM BROWN.



to get the colored voters to vote the Liberty ticket.
We made him understand it was not all gold that glit-
ters. He left our quarters and went about his busi-
ness, and the Law and Order party elected their can-
didates. I received six dollars for my work. Mr.
Bouen employed me after election to go around and
see if there - were strangers that had been here long
enough to vote, and see that their names were regis-
tered, and at the next election he would pay me. I
collected quite a number who had never taken the
trouble to register their names. The Law and Order
party broke up, the colored voters went over to the
Whig party, the most of the Law and Order party
being Whigs, still claiming our support. Their can-
didate for President was a slaveholder, Zachary
Taylor. We did not like the idea of voting for a
slaveholder, and called a meeting on South Main
street to see what we should do. I opposed the
meeting being held in that part of the city, fearing
it would prove injurious to my interest. I was in
that part of the city working at shoe making, my
custom was good, and 1 knew that if I attended that
meeting and spoke in favor of the Whig candidate, I
should lose their custom and perhaps get hurt. I
could not speak in favor of the Democratic candidate
for I was opposed to that party. I was obliged to
attend the meeting in the third ward. I was at my
wit's ends to know what to do. I attended the meeting
and found the place packed with people, and about
one hundred and fifty people filled out to the hall
door. The meeting was opened when I arrived, Mr.
Thomas Howland presiding as chairman. I went



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 161

in and took the farthest corner of the room. George
C. Willis was called, and took his position in front of
the stage ; addressing the chairman, he remarked, that
we were in a very curious position ; we must be
decided in favor of one party or the other, and his
opinion was of the two evils, we must choose the
least ; and his choice was in favor of Zachary Taylor,
the Whig candidate. Several others spoke, and in
harsh terms denounced the Democratic party. I was
then called, and tried to decline, but the call came
from every one, Brown, Biovvn. I was compelled, to
speak. I arose, addressed the president, and told the
audience we were called together to settle a very
grave question, which as citizens, it was our duty to
decide which of the two parties we were to support.
We were not to decide upon the man, but the
party. If we were to decide on the candidate, it
would be not to cast a vote for Taylor, for he is a
slaveholder ; and this I presume is the feeling of
every colored voter, but we are identified with the
Whig. party, and it is the duty of every colored person
to cast his vote f„r the Whig party, shutting his eyes
against the candidate ; as he is nothing more than a
servant for the party ; but I wish it understood that
I am not opposed to either party as such ; because I
believe there are good and bad men in both parties.
I have warm friends in the Democratic party, which
I highly esteem, and who would take pleasure at any
time in doing me a favor. Some of them are my best
customers ; but in speaking of the party, those men
know well the duty demanded of them by their party,
and would not neglect it for the sake of accommo-

ut



162



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



dating me. 1 blame no man for carrying out the
principles of his party. He has a perfect right to do
sof, or this is a free country, and we all have a right
alike to enjoy our own opinion ; there being two par-
ties we are stirred up to action. It makes lively times,
and I hope the times will continue to be lively, and
our meetings to increase in numbers, for the more we
have, and the larger the attendance upon them, the
more my business will increase, for the more shoes
that are worn out in attending these meetings, the
more custom I shall have. I sat down amid loud
cheering. It was a bitter pill for us to vote for a
man who was a slaveholder ; but placing him in the
light of a servant for the party, and we identified
with that party, we managed to swallow it down
whole. After voting to sustain Zachary Taylor as a
candidate for the next Presidential election, we closed
the meeting.

Now having changed my residence, I could not
well work at shoemaking in my new quarters, and
finding a shop empty in this part of the city, with
cheap rent, I hired it for a month, with a privilege to
occupy it as long as I saw fit. I did not know how my
custom would be, as many suffrage people resided
there, and they were not overburdened with love for
the colored people, for they held them responsible for
their defeat in a great measure. They said if it were
not for the colored people, they would have whipped
the Algerines, for their fortifications were so strong
that they never could have been taken by them.
Their guns commanded every road for the distance of
five miles. Why then did you surrender your fort, I



WILLIAM J. BROWH.



163



asked, if you had eleven hundred men to defend it ?
They said, u Who do you suppose was going to stay
there when the Algerines were coming up with four
hundred bull niggers ?" This excitement, however,
gradually died out, and for a time everything in po-
litical matters seemed to move along very quietly, and
peace and harmony reigned



164



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER XIV.

1 now thought it best to get a place to carry on my
work. As I could not do it very well at the house, I
hired a shop down in the third ward, where there was
a fine shoemaker's shop. I got no work except what
came from Benevolent street and from the members of
our church. I concluded to give up the shop, as
so many shoemakers were there of which I did not
know when I took the shop. They of course took all
the custom, and all the work I had I brought from
home, and I thought I might as well stay at home
and do the work, and save the money that I was pay-
ing for rent. When the landlord came in I told him
that I could get no work, and just as soon as my
month was up, I was going to move. He told me
not to be discouraged ; that the people had not found
me out ; and if I would stay another month, he would
give me a pair of boots to bottom, which might go
towards the rent. With that promise I concluded to
stay another month.

After he left my shop, I discovered my boot sign
moving, and I saw a hand unfastening it from the
stick, and rising up I saw a boy standing on the fence
unfastening the boot. I took my shoe strap and com-
menced amusing myself by putting it on him. The



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



165



boy not fancying such a warm reception, tumbled off
the fence and ran away. Soon after my landlord
came in and I told him what I had done. He said
I had done a very wrong thing, for the boys would
club together and give me a beating. He said they
gave him an awful flogging at one time. I did not
fear the boys or their sticks. On the evening before
Thanksgiving, on going home I stepped into Mr.
Hall's grocery to get some groceries ; opening the
door to go, Mr. Hall said, "here, Mr. Brown, is some-
thing left for you." He went to the back part of
his store and brought me a fine pair of chickens. I
asked who sent them. He said " Uncle Zach. Taylor."
I said, "give my compliments to Uncle Zach., and
tell him, with pleasure I receive them."

Soon after, I went to father's house on Sunday
afternoon, as I was accustomed to do. Father asked
me what great speech I had been making. I said I
• had not made any speech that I knew of. He said
he had been down town with his wagon, and coming
up some one hallowed after him ; he stopped and Mr.
Earl, the expressman, came to the wagon with a large
turkey in his hand, saying, "Noah, I was at a meeting
not long since, and heard William make a speech ; I
had not seen him before for some years. He made a
first-rate speech ; I couldn't have made a better one
if I had tried myself, and I am going to give you this
turkey for having such a son." He, father, took the
turkey, and thanking him, said he hoped he would
make some moie such speeches. My landlord, accord-
ing to promise, brought me his boots to mend. They
were a light French calf boot. As soon as he went



166



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



out I began to work on them. I bottomed and
dressed them off, making them Iook as nice as I could.
I put one in the window, and at 12 o'clock a squad of
workmen passed by, when one of them stopped to see
the boot in the window. "Ain't that done nice," he
said ; they answered "Yes." " Do you suppose that
nigger done them ? " "No, he never could do work
like that," they said. And drawing close to the win-
dow, he said, "Yes, he did, for he's working on the
•other one now ; let's go in and have a close look at
them." They came in and giving me the time of day
asked me if that boot was some of my work. I said,
"Yes." "May I look at it?" I said, " Yes." After
examining it, they said, " There ain't a man on this
street that can do work like that. You are a first-
class workman, sir." I said, " I try to do my work
satisfactory." " Whose boots are they ? " I replied,
" Mr. Morgan's." They all promised to give me work,
and left. They were as good as their word, for my*
work daily increased, so that in order to meet the
demand I was compelled to rise very early in the
morning and commence work, and work until very
late at night. A man that works at shoemaking needs
but two meals a day ; being seated all day he has but
little exercise. I followed the practice of working
late at night for several weeks. My landlord fre-
quently called on me, and spoke of visiting the
different shoemakers, and learned that their customers
were leaving them and coming to me. Mr. Colby,
who worked at the corner of John and Hope streets,
and had previously employed five hands, now employed
only two. He came in one day and asked me who I



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



167



was going to vote for, for Governor, I said I could
not tell at present, for I was not troubled about poli-
tics ; but as the Law and Order party is broken up,
the colored people fell in with the Whig party, which
was the only party we could conscientiously support.
I made this .remark because I was aware he had heard
of the speech I made at the the third ward mass
meeting, from the Suffrage people who were present,
and more than probable was there himself, which was
one reason why I opposed the mass meeting being
held in the third ward, for almost every one knew me,
and Mr. Morgan was aware that I was a member of
the church, and he held me strictly responsible for the
faithful discharge of all the duties of a christian. He
then said, " I have used every possible means in my
power to get custom for you ; I told the people that
you was the best workman in the vicinity, and the
other shoemakers are losing their custom, so that some
of them were obliged to discharge some of their hands.
You now have as much, if not more, work than you
can do ; now I have some choice in the election of our
next Governor, for I want an office under him during
his administration ; and I wish you to work a little
for my interest." I said I knew he had been labor-
ing for my interest, and I was very grateful for the
kindness he had shown towards me, and was willing
to do what lay in my power to help him in his con-
templated intentions. " But we are identified with
the whig party, who, under the name of the law and
order party, had given the colored people the power
of elective franchise. I am thereby brought under
deeper obligations to sustain that class of our com-



168



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



munity, no matter by what name they might be
identified, in preference to all others, and that class
composes the Whig party in our State. I cannot con-
scientiously vote for any other Governor than the
regular candidate for that party. Now, if you are
identified with that party I shall do all that lays in
my power to secure their candidate ; but if you are
opposed to that party and their candidate, with regret,
I must tell you, it will be entirely out of my power to
tender my aid in assisting you to elect your Governor
or procure you an office." I expected he had some plan
in view, by visiting different shoemaker's shops, they
being suffrage people as well as himself; and in order
to break me up they had put him up to force me to
vote for the Democratic candidate, knowing that the
colored people had tried to unite with the suffrage
people and had been refused. It would now be im-
possible to get them to vote for a Democratic Governor,
and I would be compelled to refuse to vote, and that
would make a division between the landlord and my-
self, and by that means I would be ejected from his
premises. I was hurting their custom, and the only
remedy was to get me out of the neighborhood. I
had expected the attack and therefore was prepared
for it, and when I opened my arguments the shock
was so great that he hardly knew how to receive it.
But gathering himself up he said, " I must look out
for my interest as other people do their own ; and all
there is to it is, if you want to stay in this shop, you
must vote for the man who is going to help me. So
I want you to consider on it, and make up your mind."
Having said this he went away. I hurried to get my



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



169



work all done because I would have to move, although
I hated to give up my shop and lose my custom, which
bid -fair to place me in abetter position than I had
enjoyed since working at my trade. Yet I could not
aid a party who would not receive or aid us on an
equality with themselves, when they declared they
were struggling for the very rights they denied us
when we appealed to them for aid. The two parties
were now obliged to show their strength and contend
for victory. The Democrats were anxious to obtain
it and hired money to get it, and promised to pay it
back when they got the government in their hands.
The Whig party knew what they had promised and
were determined to beat them if possible. The
strength of both parties was about equal in regard to
numbers, and the colored people were the balance of
power, but did not like the idea of voting for a slave*
holder, although we voted to sustain him at the mass
meeting, yet we couldn't speak for all the colored
voters. The Democratic party, knowing the obstacle
which would prevent many colored persons from
voting for Taylor, sent a detachment to join their
party with the free soil party, pretending to be aboli-
tion men, and demanded the aid of the colored voters
for their respective candidate. This was intended to
draw off the voters of the Whig party. The Demo-
crats would then elect the candidate of their party.
I called on Henry L. Bowen, chairman of the com-
mittee for the Whig party, and told him: "We couldn't
expect the strength of the colored people now as when
they were with the law and order party. Then our
voters felt it their duty to act together in order to



"WILLIAM J. BEOWK.



restore peace between the two parties. Now that
party is done away and we are called to act with the
party whose candidate is a slave-holder, and we can-
not conscientiously vote for such a man. The Demo-
crats are running a liberty and free soil ticket, and
calling on the colored voters as abolitionists to sustain
them. You make a distinction between your white
and colored voters by placing a star against the names
of the colored voters. You say you cannot do without
them ; they are the balance of power, and you want
to know how to get them again. Now, hire a room
to meet in, then hire men qualified for the business
and set them at work ; have them attend the mass
meetings ; work day and night until the election is
over, then pay them enongh to satisfy them for their
time ; and in this way only you will elect your candi-
date." Mr. Bo wen said, " Hire as many men as you
want, have as many meetings as you want, and get the
best men you can find to help you, and when the elec-
tion is over make out a bill of all your expenses and I
will settle it." I went to work, hired a room, and
hired Charles Gorham and Charles Cozzens to help.
We elected our Governor. After the election was
over I made out the bill of all the expenses attending
the election, including rent, and carried it to Mr.
Bowen, chairman of the committee, and he paid it, at
the same time requesting me to keep in readiness for
the next election, which was for President. We got
through with the State election very well, but it was
going to be a bitter pill for our people to swallow to
vote for a slave-holder for President, but we voted to
sustain the party and not the man. Mr. Bowen hired



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



171



the same room he had before ; I drummed up the
colored voters, while Mr. Gorham and Cozzens enter-
tained them night after night until the election was
over. We were successful and carried the election ;
Mr. Bowen was praised for his skilful management,
and I beat the bush while he earned off the bird. The
political fever was now over and quiet again reigned.
After we had enjoyed a season of quiet from political
disturbances and harangues, we were brought into
another conflict, extensive and severe, but of compar-
atively short duration. For a time we were much
stirred on the subject of free suffrage, and mass meet-
ing were being held to discuss the question. It was
suggested by some that the colored people hold mass
meetings among themselves and discuss the matter.
The suggestion met with their approval and a meeting
was called, and I was appointed secretary. The
question was discussed by several who approved of
the movement, as it was thought to be a good time
to get our rights in common with the rest of the peo-
ple, and a committee of five were appointed to confer
with the suffrage party and tell them if they felt op-
pressed we were more so, and we would unite with
them for free suffrage if we could share equally with
them when they obtained it. The committee conferred
with their leaders, made our request known to them,
and by invitation attended their next meeting, and
laid the case before the party. One of their leaders
made a long speech in our behalf. Many opposed our
immediate equal union with them, but wanted us to
unite and help get their rights and then they would
see about ours. Our committee reported at our next



172



WILLTAM J. BROWN.



meeting, and were instructed to tell thein we could
not agree to those terms. Then the man who made
the long speech said to our committee, "Report to your
people that we leave you just where we found you/'
and we decided to have nothing to do with them.
The Suffrage party said they were fully able to control
the State, have their own constitution and elect their
own officers. They said the other party was in the
minority, and they would not be ruled by them.
They attempted to carry out their object by making
and adopting a constitution, and the Law and Order
party also took measures to get a constitution, sub-
mitting the question for the citizens to vote whether
they should or should not have one. The colored
people asked in common with other citizens to ex-
press their views by voting, whether we should have
a written constitution or remain under the old char-
ter. The vote of the colored people was unanimous
for a new constitution. This act very much enraged
them. One day I was in Mr. Crocker's store when
one of their number (who had taken a great interest
in their party, and had loaned them twelve thousand
dollars to carry out their object) came in and said :
" Crocker, I have concluded to fight ; them Algerines
have got the niggers to help them out, and I will not
stand it. I think it the duty of every man to come
up and help, when niggers are allowed to vote against
us." One of the finest men in the city, as I supposed,
came to me and said, " I suppose you voted?" I an-
swered, "Yes, sir." He said, "Do you suppose you
are ever going to vote again ?" I said, " That is so
far in the future I cannot tell." He said, " Your



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 173

wool will grow closer to your skull than it does now
before you vote again." I took no notice of this, but
went out, for I did not know how things would turn.

The Suffrage party continued their preparations to
carry out their object, but the Law and Order party
would not yield, saying they had one constitution,
and it was the peoples, and they were the sovereigns.
They tried hard but in vain to put the suffrage party
down and put in force their constitution, but they
fortified themselves at Chepachet, and reported
eleven hundred men in fort with cannon to defend it.
Every possible measure was taken by the Law and
Order party to capture and take them prisoners.
Many turned out in defence of their party ; soldiers
were drilling to be in readiness, and the colored peo-
ple organized two companies to assist in carrying out
Law and Order in this State. Two hundred men
came forward and joined these companies. The next
week they met to elect officers. On that evening
three men were present, each wanting to be head.
One was Thomas Howland, a stevedore, and a man
of some influence and considerable money, but very
little education. He thought his position would sus-
tain him. The next man wanting the office was
James Hazzard, dealer in new and second hand
clothing. He was the richest colored man in the
city ; he thought the command belonged to him. The
third man was Peterson, the barber. He could not
boast of money or influence, but had a good educa-
tion, and thought that he should have the place on
that account. He soon found that that would not
sustain him, and that others were getting the advan-
tage. He said to the assembly, they had better mi-
ls*



174



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



derstand what they were about to do, and not be too
fast, for colored people had often been deceived.
When they were needed, great promises would be
made, and when they were through with them, they
would be forgotten. He referred to the speech of
General Jackson on the banks of Mobile to.his colored
soldiers. This created such a sensation that they
closed without proceeding any farther, and the com-
pany broke up, saying they would not organize a
separate company, but would offer themselves to the
different companies, which they did, and were re-
ceived. Companies were formed in each ward, and
the chief officers took up their quarters at the Tock-
wotton House. Mr. Hall, the quartermaster, called
on me to come and help, stating that he wanted to
hire two men, for the two that he had hired were
gone, and there were five hundred men that wanted
supper that night, and there was no one to get it for
them. He said if I would come and bring another
man to help, he would pay me my price, for these
men must be fed. My neighbor, William Gorham,
agreed to go, so we both started for Quartermaster
Hall's. We went to work cooking for the soldiers,
and remained eleven weeks, during which time the
soldiers took the fort at Chepachet, which they found
vacated, gathered up a quantity of stores and prison-
ers, and returned to the city. So the Suffrage party
was defeated, and peace and harmony were restored
by the Law and Order party. This was in 1842.
The command was disbanded, Gorham and myself
were discharged and paid, being allowed one dollar
a day. This ended the great contention which had
existed so long in this State in political matters.



WILLIAM J. BKOWK.



175



CHAPTER XV.

My eye sight now began to trouble me very much,
Until I became entirely blind in my left eye. Feel-
ing better one day, I went up to Mr. Ives's to collect
some money he had subscribed. He gave me the
sum of twenty dollars, and told me to count it over
and see that it was correct. As I was counting it, I
held my head so close to it, that he asked me why I
did so ? I told him I had lost the sight of one eye, and
the other was very weak. He asked if I had been to
see Dr. Rivers ? I told him I had not;, as I was told
that he charged five dollars for an examination, and I
had no money to spare. He told me to go to Dr.
Rivers, and ask him to examine my eyes and see what
could be done for them, and tell him " I sent you."
Soon after, he went to Europe to visit a relative who
was sick. I did so, and after one application, he told
me that he could not help me ; but go to the Eye In-
firmary in Boston, and perhaps they could help me.
I told him Mr. Ives was away, and I could not go
until he returned. After his return from Europe he
called at the Episcopal mission rooms, and, in conver-
sation with the proprietor, my case was brought up,
and Mr. Ives promised to attend to me and send
me to Boston. Some two weeks passed, when, re-



176



WILLIAM «L BROWN.



turning from church service Sunday morning, I met
him ; he bid me good morning, and asked if I knew
him. I did not recognize his voice at first, as I was not
expecting to meet him. He told me to get ready to
go to Boston the next Tuesday morning. I told him
I could not get ready to go until Thursday. He said
that will do, but call on me to-morrow morning at ten
o'clock ; and he gave me a letter, and asked if I was
ever in Boston ? I told him I had never been there.
He gave me a roll of bills, and told me to " take the
early train to Boston, which leaves at half- past seven
o'clock, and when you arrive there take a hack and tell
them to take you to the Boston eye and ear infirmary
on Charles street, and stay there as long as the doc-
tors want you." I thanked him for his kindness, and
returned home and got ready to go. I was on time at
the cars and purchased my tickets, and seeing that my
letter was not sealed, opened and read as follows:
"This is the colored man I spoke of last week. He is
a very respectable man, and I want you to retain him at
your Institution as long as you can do him any good,
and I will be responsible for all his expenses. Robert
H. Ives." This was the purport of his letter. When
I arrived at the Institution, I took my seat in the hall,
where all the patients were, and remained there until
one o'clock, when I was called into the office by a
man who waited on the doctors, and presented to Dr.
Bethune ; that being the day he attended to the pa-
tients. Two doctors attended the patients and one put
up medicines. After Dr. Bethune examined my eyes
through his different glasses for an hour, he committed
me to the hands of Dr. Hooper ; after he had spent



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



177



an hour over me, I was passed over to Dr. Hayes for
an hour, then the three doctors came together,
and expressed their views in writing. Dr. Betfmne
said, "Mr. Ives, it appears by his note, called at the
Infirmary Inst week, and spoke about this man's com-
ing here. Mr. Ives is a millionare of Providence, and
wishes us to retain him here as long as we can do him
any good, and he will be responsible for his expenses.''
He said to me, "You are Mr. Ives' servant, I suppose?"
I replied, "No, sir, I am not the servant of Mr. Ives nor
any one else." The doctor started, and said, " Ah, you
are not?" I said, "No, sir." The doctor then gave me
a card with my name on it and told me to hang it up
at the head of my bedstead. He gave me another card
with some numbers on it, which I was to keep always
by me, to use when I went to the table. On my first
arrival, I felt lonesome, and were it not for the kind-
ness of Mr. Ives in sending me there, and p'aying my
expenses, I would have taken the next train home,
but I thought it best to content myself, and make the
best of everything. One day one of the men came to
me and said, " Mr. Brown, you are lonesome ; come
up among the men and unite with them in conversa-
tion." I told him I would come presently, but I pre-
ferred to be alone for awhile. I went up, soon after,
and joined them in the conversation. I made my-
self sociable with all the inmates at the Institution,
and had many discussions, which often caused some
exciting talk and much enthusiasm, but always re-
sulted in good. At one time we had a warm discus-
sion on the subject of dividing the wealth of the rich
among all classes, so that all would have an equal



178



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



amount of money. I convinced them that such a
course would prove very injurious to the poor them-
selves ; for then they would refuse to work, there
would be nothing to encourage the farmer, mechanic,
manufacturer and tradesman to do anything besides
supplying their own wants, and increasing their own
comfort. There would be an end to all industrial
pursuits, commerce would cease, and disgraceful con-
duct, waste and ruin would follow in the wake. At
the time President Lincoln was about to take his
seat, much anxiety was expressed by the patients for
his safety ; some felt that danger surrounded him
on every side, but all expressed themselves in his wel-
fare. A very exciting discussion took place one day
concerning the conduct of the Mayor of Boston at a
time his services were needed to protect the citizens.
The Abolitionists were going to have a public meet-
ing, and* Fred. Douglass was to address them on the
subject of slavery. The merchants and proslavery
men of Boston did not want such a demon stration in
their city, as many favored the system ; so the} in-
duced a large party of men to go in and break up the
meeting. Many blamed the Mayor for not quelling
the disturbance, and protecting the citizens in the en-
joyment of their rights, and thought that he favored
the movers of the disturbance, and shonld be turned
out of offico, and lose all his salary ; but in a short time
things quieted down and there was nothing done
about it. I received a call one day from Mr. Ives,
who was in the city on business. He wanted to know
how I fared, and what my accommodations were, and
if the doctors thought they could help me. I could



WILLIAM J. BROWK.



179



answer all the questions satisfactorily except the last
one. I did not know what the doctors thought of my
case. I learned that Dr. Bethune was a very curious
man, and that if he said my case was favorable, he
could help me, but if he saidit was unfavorable, there
was no help for me. I remarked that I was treated
very well. Dr. Bethune was out of town, and Mr.
Ives did not see him; He asked me if I had any mes-
sage to send to any of my folks, or anything that I
wanted ? if so, he would attend to it for me. He then
bid me good bye, saying he would be down shortly to
see me. After he left, the inmates wanted to know
if that was the millionaire that sent me there. I told
them it was. They were surprised to see him sit
down beside me and be so sociable. I told them the
rich white people of Providence associate with all re-
spectable colored people ; and we associate with them,
because from them comes our support. We also are
in harmony with the poorer class of white people, and
treat them well.

I found people of all persuasions in the hospital ;
and some were much displeased to think that they
were compelled to go into the chapel and attend ser-
vice Sunday afternoons, saying it was a perfect shame
that a man was compelled to attend ; because he was
poor he must submit or be discharged from the in-
firmary ; they did not like to sit a whole hour and
hear a man preach doctrines they did not believe. I
took no notice of their conversation, for I was pleased
to go to church, and enjoyed the services much. After
closing the services one Sabbath afternoon, the min-
ister desired to speak with me. I went up to the



180



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



pulpit, and he said, " Do you belong in this city ?" I
told him I belonged in Providence, and was there to
have my eyes doctored. He said he had noticed me
sitting and listening very attentively, and asked me
if I was a Christian ? I told him I was, and a preacher
too. He said, " I am glad you are ; I have preached
here for some fifteen years ; I know that I am not
much of a preacher, but do the best I can and
charge nothing for preaching ; I know that some of
these people don't like to hear me by their actions."
I told him I liked his preaching very much. We
came down together, shook hands and parted. The
men in the ward wanted to know what he said. I
told them what he said, and that I liked his preach-
ing. They said, " Mr. Brown, you are a man of in.
telligence and education, and can you, of a truth,
say you like that man ?" I replied, " Yes, for he tells
the truth." Mr. Oakessaid, " I have been in this in-
stitution six years, and I never heard but one man
before you say that they liked that man, and he was
a Methodist preacher." I said, " I like to hear him,
and I am a Baptist preacher." Mr. Oakes exclaimed,
" The mystery is solved ; we have been thinking
how you came here, and was boarded and sustained
by that millionaire of Providence. When the Doc-
tor asked you if you wasn't his servant, you said No,
sir; you was no one's servant, and then we could not
imagine what caused him to sustain you here. The
cat has been let out of the bag. You preachers can
have some one to send you around and dress you
too." I found that being obliged to associate with so
many different classes of people, that unless a person



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



181



lias Divine aid, it will be impossible to enjoy reli-
gion here, especially when it is known that he is a
professor of religion. Had I not made the advance-
ment in religion that I did at the time I was at-
tacked with sickness thirteen years before I went to
the infirmary, and had been obliged to associate with
the same class of people that I was at this time, I
don't think I would have been able to sustain a re-
ligious character ; but having settled in my mind, be-
yond a doubt, that I had been changed from nature
to grace, or, in the language of our Saviour, been
born ngain, I should have fell into the same belief
that others had ; that is, to think I was deceived, and
never had met with a change ; for as we are in a sin-
ful world, we are more or less subject to its influence,
and were it not for the aid of divine Providence,
would fall victims to it. But we are held by the
power of that influence which protects every soul by
its spiritual light, so that nature loses its influence
over us, and we are safe ; and if we are called to die
before that time arrived, it will be well with us. But
after that time, being subject to its power, if we do
not embrace Christ in the new birth, we fall victims
to Satan's influence. Hence the wise man tells us to
remember our Creator in the d^.ys of our youth, be-
fore the evil day comes, for the influence of Satan is
turned against us, and we are responsible for every
digression from God's ways, and continue so until the
Spirit of God brings us to realize our situation, and
we are brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is
in Christ Jesus. Then the words of the Apostles
comes to our assistance saying, As we have received

16



182



WILLIAM J. BEOWN.



, the Lord Jesus, so walk in Him. We all know how
we" receive in joy and love, and how we feel towards-
those who have not been changed. We desire to see
them brought to the light, and honor God in body
and spirit, which is His. We are commanded to walk
on in love after the Saviour." Here I made a stop,
and had I been in the company then that I was at
present, I should have felt that I had never been
changed, and was deceived ; but by the mercy and
goodness of God I was enabled to see my situation
and re-dedicate my life anew to His service, and re-
gaining my health, I laid aside the various weights
and the sins which so easily beset me, and run the
race set before me, looking unto Jesus, the author
and finisher of my faith ; and the Lord came to my
assistance by the manifestation of His holy spirit, and
I gained a knowledge of my sanctification, not in the
light some view it, thinking they cannot sin any more,
but knowing that if I sin I have an advocate with
our Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. Hence, I
flee to the advocate, and I can withstand the influence
by which I am surrounded, and thereby gain the re-
spect and esteem of all.

I remained through the winter at the hospital, and
in the spring, Dr. Bethune told me that they had
done all they could for me, and discharged me, and I
went home. I regretted leaving the hospital, as I had
many friends there, and had spent the time very
pleasantly. The sight of my right eye was somewhat
improved, but I had received no benefit to my left
eye. I was now at a loss to know what to do to sup-
port myself and family. Soap making and shoe making



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



183



were both injurious to my sight. I therefore assisted
i:he Rev. George W. Hamblin in printing a monthly
.paper called the V Ouverture, but was induced by the
white people to stop its publication for fear it might
have a bad effect. This closed up my work in this
•direction.



184



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER XVI.

The long talked of war had at last begun, and men
from every State were going forth to put down the re-
bellion. I was satisfied that the citizens of this State
had become a unit in feeling on the subject. In a
few days the Governor issued a call for colored troops,
and Mr. George Henry called on me to know if I had
read the call, and what I thought of it. I told him
I had, and I believed that the colored people would
be called on to help them before they got through
with the war. He said they proposed to hold a meet-
ing at eleven o'clock, at Charles Brown's, on .College
street, and wanted me to attend. I went and found
a large number of colored people had assembled, and
Mr. John Waugh, holding a copy of the Journal,
read the call of Governor Sprague for colored troops,
which was as lollows :

" The Sixth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, to
be composed of colored citizens, under General
Orders No. 36, from the Adjutant General's Depart-
ment, will, if organized, be formed under the order
of the Secretary of War, under the date of October
22d, 1861. The Regiment to be subject to the same
service, and the officers and men drawing same pay
and rations as other regiments now in the service of
the United States. C. S. ROBBLNS,

Brigadier General R. i. M.
Providence, Aug. 13, 1862.''



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 185

Mr. Dennis Laws asked if the Governor was in earn-
est in the call, or whether he wished to deceive them.
I arose and said I once knew a man who said that
if he could have the privilege of taking his spite out
of the slaveholders of the South, he would bring his
own arms and ammunition and travel all the way
South to do so. Now you have an offer to be sup-
plied with arms and ammunition, and all necessary
expenses paid, and repay those slaveholders for their
wicked conduct toward our brethren. If that man
were living he would rejoice at this opportunity.
"Who was that man ?" cried out a dozen voices. I said
it was Charles Gorham ; there would be no hesitation
• on his part if he was living. A motion was made
and passed unanimously, that we accept the call, and
a committee of three, viz. : fm. J. Brown, John K.
Creighton, and John T. Waugh were appointed to
wait upon the Governor and inquire into the particu-
lars of the call. The meeting adjourned, and the
Committee went to call upon the Governor, and
learning that he had gone to New York, we called on
Major Robbins. He asked who sent us to him ?
We replied that we were appointed at a meeting of
the colored citizens. He said, " then I will talk with
you. He said, "more than twenty men have called to
see me to-day and wanted an appointment to raise the
regiment, but I would have nothing to do with them.
You come by the appointment of the people. I will
telegraph to the Governor, and you can increase your
committee to the number of seven, and bring their
names to me in writing this afternoon, and to-mor
row, at eleven o'clock, call at my office and I will give

16*



186



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



you your appointments." We sent the names of
seven men to General Robbins, and the next day re-
ceived our commission to enroll one thousand men,
and report to the Governor. I was appointed Chair-
man of the Committee, and John E. Creighton, Sec-
retary. We completed the number, took a copy of
the roll and delivered it to the Governor, and told
him that the men were anxious to go into camp, and
' he requested me to tell the regiment to hold them-
selves in readiness until he called for them. But
there was some law in existence that the Governor
was not aware of which prevented colored men from
being enlisted equally with white ; that the regiment
could not be legally organized until that law was
annulled, which took place soon after. When
President Lincoln had issued his proclamation to
emancipate the slaves, if the Confederates did not lay
down their arms at a set time, many people thought
he was only scaring them, but when the time drew
near, and they did not comply, the colored people
called a meeting to make preparations to receive in-
telligence of the proclamation; and Rev. Samuel
White, William J. Brown, George Henry, John T.
Waugh, John Banks, Jared Morris and George W.
Hamblin were appointed. The Committee met at
the Rev. Mr. White's residence on Benevolent street,
and passed several resolutions, which were to be
printed in the Providence Journal, and voted to pro-
cure Pratt's Hall for the day and evening. I was
then appointed President of the day. Twenty-four
Vice Presidents and five Secretaries were also ap-
pointed, after which they adjourned to the first day



WILLIAM J. BROWN. Jgf

of ' January, 1868, at ten o'clock. When that day

but ', a re8 P eotabIe n ^ber was present,

but not the proclamation. The meeting adjourned

had lT? Ued a ' tW ° °' d ° ck ; the Proclamation
at "even'Tr t °r e - ^ ad ™« meet

int Z2 U eVeDlng - P rocIam "«on not hav-

7* Z . T a P pearanoe ' the P e °P'e were getting
doubtful, the hall was "packed, and at the hour of
mne, when the bell was tolling, a man rushed into
the room with a telegram from the President that the
proclamation was issued. No one that was at that
meeting can ever forget the sensation it produced

swenT P l a ' Sed " high6St ' aad «very hear
swelled with gratitude. The meeting then closed
and thousands rejoiced that our prayers were heard
and our country was free. d



188



"WILLIAM J. BEOWN.



CHAPTER XVII.

I will now turn my attention to the interest of the
Church, assisting in the prayer-meetings, and the
sin zing and Sunday schools. I was well spoken of
by all "the members of the Church, as being always
ready to attend to its interest whenever I was needed.
All were satisfied with my Christian character, and
spoke of me in the highest terms, but I was not alto-
gether satisfied with myself. I felt very anxious to
lay my case before the Lord, and know of a certainty
how the case stood between the Lord and my own
soul, and felt the necessity pressing on my mind to
understand if I had been born again, for I had the
clear statement of our Saviour to Nicodemus, in the
third chapter of John, declaring that unless a man is
born again, he shall never see the kingdom of heaven.
It matters not what the minister, or deacons or
church had to say of me, and though backed up by
the community, if I had not passed through a new
birth, I should be lost, and his word can not fail.
Now this is comprehensive language, and every per-
son can see for themselves the necessity of having a
positive assurance of being born again in the way
described by our Saviour. I looked at the state I
was in before I had passed through the second birth ;



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 189

and the motive that prompted me to act under the
circumstances, and discovered that all of my actions
were based on selfishness. If I did anything, it was
done .for self, to make a grand appearance. God was
out of the question altogether. He had no part nor
lot in the matter. If I told lies it was to please self
and elicit praise and admiration from my fellow men,
and no part went to praise God for his goodness and
admire him for his greatness, and Satan laid at the
bottom of all my movements. I had no relish for
God nor his word, and was each day hardening my
heart and turning my mind away from God, nor did
I realize it until I was brought into a place where five
minutes would decide my fate. That was when I was
going through the race on Long Island Sound. I
heard a minister on board say that five minutes would
decide whether we would remain above or sink below
the waves. I well knew if the latter should be the
case, my fate would be sealed, and I lost forever. I
then said if I was spared, my first business would be
to secure my salvation. This thought remained on
my mind until I felt satisfied that through the bless-
ings of God I had accomplished the work. I found it
to be directly reverse to the feeling which I had pre-
viously possessed, which was love and praise to God,
recognizing that all things come from Him, and that
He was the creator and owner of all things, and it
was our first great duty to acknowledge His power,
which would bring peace to our minds and fill our
hearts with light and joy.

Our church was much reduced in numbers by so
many enlisting in the service as soldiers. Our house



190



WILLIAM BROWN.



was out of repair and our means limited and we con-
cluded to issue a subscription paper and raise means
to repair the house, which the committee estimated
would cost eight hundred dollars. They asked me
to circulate the paper, promising to give me twenty-
five per cent. After much persuasion, knowing that
they could procure no one for that purpose, I con-
sented, and drew up a paper and circulated it. Many
promised to give something, but would not head the
paper. I labored several days without success, and
then went to Mr. Robert H. Ives. After examining
the paper, he said to me, " Why don't you get some
one to sign your paper, recommending you to the
public ? People don't want to stop their business to
read your paper ; if they can see one or two respon-
sible men recommending your object, that would be
satisfaction enough for them to give." I told him we
had a Committee of Seven, who were responsible
men, and he was acquainted with the whole of them.
He said, "Your Committee are no ones for that pur-
pose." I said, "Who do you wish for — ministers ?"
He said, "No ; they are not the ones for that pur-
pose." I asked him what he thought of Prof. Cas-
well, also Dr. Wood and Dr. Wayland. He said,
are they good men ; those names would be satisfac-
tory to any one who wanted to give help. Now get
their names, and I will do something for you." I
went and procured their names- Then calling on Mr.
Ives I showed him what I had done. He said, "Now
your book is in-good shape ; now then go to your Bap-
tist brethren and let them open your list. I am an
Episcopalian, but will do something for you."



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



191



I commenced trying to get some one to head my
paper, each one excusing himself, and all saying they
didn't know how much they would do, but would
not head that paper, and what they intended to da
would be bat very little. After spending a week
working without success, I called on Mr. George
Hail. He examined my book and said, " How would
you like to swap lots with me ?" I asked him where
his lot was located? He said, « It is a lot with a cel-
lar dug in it, between Meeting and Congdon streets,
and facing on Congdon street." I said, " That de-
pends on how you want to swap, and what boot you
•want to give." He said, " I think that the boot be-
longs on the other foot, for my lot is worth three or
four of your lot." I said, " That may be in some-
respects, and perhaps to some persons, but not to me.
Our house and lot is free from debt, and if we should
trade with you, it would cost a great deal to move our
house down there, and we have no money to do it
with, and if we do it without money we will involve
ourselves, and if we continue in our old house we will
be free from all embarrassments, and a great deal
better off than to be involved." Mr. Hail said, " It
will not cost you a great deal to move your house
on that lot, and if I should give you my lot for yours,
I think you would make a very good bargain." I
told him I would mention it to my people, but you
can put your name down on my paper and help us
out with our enterprise. Mr. Hail said, " If your
friends trade with me, they won't want to repair
the house." I didn't know he was in a hurry about
trading. I thought any time would do for that, but



192



WILLIAM J. BROWN".



if that be the case, I will stop right here about re-
pairing and inform the corporation of your proposals,
for they are the ones to do the trading. So I left,
promising to let him know as soon as possible. I
then called upon the treasurer of the corporation,
Charles T. Cozzens, and told him Mr. Hail wanted
the lot that our meeting house was standing on. He
said he would swap with us for his lot on Congdon
street. He said he would like to change very well,
but he would want a great deal to boot, and we had
no money to give. I told him that Mr. Hail did not
say an3*thing to me about any. boot, so I suppose he
wants to change even. Mr. Cozzens said it is not>
likely he is going to give his lot for ours, standing
behind two or three others. If Mr. Hail was willing
to trade even, would you trade ? I asked. He re-
plied, " Certainly !" I then said, " That is what I
understood Mr. Hail to say, and I told him I would
call a meeting to-night to consider it." He said, "Give
notice of a meeting of the corporation to-night at
eight o'clock, to be held at my house." I notified a
meeting at that hour, and the corporation was in ses-
sion. I laid the case before them, and told them I
wanted an answer as soon as possible. They said if
Mr. Hail wanted to trade even, they would ; but if he
wanted anything to boot, they could not trade, for
they had nothing to give. I told the corporation that
I wanted some one to go with me so that whatever was
agreed upon I would have witness to hold it, and I in-
vited the Rev. Charles Williams to accompany me
if his services would be agreeable. The corporation
said it would be acceptable. The next day Mr. Wil-



WILLIAM J„ BJIOWN. 193

liams and myself waited on Mr. Hail and told him
that the corporation held a meeting the night before,
and appointed Mr. Charles Williams and myself to'
see him and make, an agreement to exchange lots.
'And now how much boot will you give us in trade ;
for rather than involve ourselves, we will remain as
we are." Mr. Hail said, "I want to do what is right
with you, William, and any one that sees the lots will
tell you that mine is worth three times more than
yours, and your lot is not worth anything scarcely to
any one, except to me. Now this I will do with
you : if you can give me a warrantee deed of your lot
I will give you my lot and a warrantee deed, and
one thousand dollars to move your house on it." I said
kt that is a good offer, and seems like business, but I
think we can do a little better than that yet. Now
suppose we move the house down there, and should
need five hundred dollars to put it in order, would
you give that?" He said, " William, I don't sup-
pose you have got any money, but if you are lacking
that amount, I will agree to fetch it up." " Well,
that seems something like it, Mr. Hail ; I knew you
would do things right. It racks old buildings more
or less to move them; we have no means to doit
with ; if we fail to meet whatever expense occurs in
completing it, even to the amount of fifteen hundred
dollars or more, will you agree to give us five hun-
dred dollars more, making the whole two thousand
dollars." He said, « Yes, I will, William ; I won't see
you suffer." I then said, » That is a good promise, Mr
Hail ; now you put two tbonsand dollars down on my
book, and the bargain is made ; that will head my



194



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



book." Mr. Hail said, "I won't do any such thing;
I will head your book with one thousand dollars ;
then, in case five hundred or a thousand should be
needed, I will give it to you to help you out." I
asked Mr. Williams, if it was his opinion that we
should close the bargain with him. He said that Mr.
Hail made us a good offer, and we had better close
with him, as we had been invested with that power
by the corporation. I told Mr. Hail that we, being
appointed by the corporation, would close the bar-
gain, when he had received the warrantee deed of
our lot, and we had received the same of his lot. I
went to the corporation meeting the next evening,
and informed them of the interview we had with Mr.
Hail, and the contract entered into by both parties.
They were highly pleased with the agreement, and
desired me to carry out the project by appointing me
sole agent with power to call whoever I saw fit to
assist me, and voted to build a new house, providing
the old one cannot be removed, and that I should col-
lect all moneys needed in building a house, and other
expenses, and receive a commission of eight per cent,
on what I collected. With this agreement, the en-
tire business was left in my hands to complete. The
first thing I did was to consult the brethren of the
church to ascertain their opinion respecting the
change of lots. So I called on the Rev. Mr. Caldwell,
pastor of the First Baptist church. I rang the bell,
and his wife opened the door, and learning what
I wanted told the Doctor that a colored man wanted
to see him. He came to the door with a hasty step.
I raised my hat and said, "Good morning, Doctor."



WILLIAM J. BROWN". 195

He replied, « Good morning." I said, « I would like
to see you a few moments, if you are at leisure." lie
said, « Walk in and take a seat." I did so, and said
to him, <•< I have called to ask your advice concerning
our Congdon street Baptist church. We have a very
generous offer from Mr. George Hail, residing in that
street ; in the rear of his residence is our meeting-
house and lot. He wants to make an exchange with
m for h.s lot situated on Congdon street between
Meeting and Angell streets, and will give one thou-
sand dollars to boot, to remove our meeting-house on
to the lot, for our lot, and our brethren thought it a
good bargain for us ; but we wanted to take the ad-
vice of our brethren before we completed the bar-
gam." He said he thought it would be a very <r od
bargain for us. I told him we were going to get the
advice of all the pastors and deacons of the Baptist
churches in the city, and to hold a meeting four
weeks from that day, to consider the subject, and as
his house was the most central of any, if he had no ob-
jections we would appoint it at his vestry, and would
be pleased to have him attend the meeting when held.
He said as far as he was concerned, we could have
the vestry, but I would have to consult Deacon Read
as he had control of the vestry when no legal meet-
ing was appointed there, but when and wherever the
meeting was called he would attend it. I told him
I would call again before the time arrived, and tell
him when it would be. Then bidding him good
morning, I left and visited Deacon Read at his store,
and informed him of my proposed meeting and time
and said that his house being the most central, w



196



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



would like to have the meeting called there ; and as
the Doctor had promised to be present at the meet-
ing', I should also be pleased to have his attendance
on the occasion. The deacon replied that I could
have the house and that he should endeavor to be
present. I then called on Rev. Mr. Graves, Secre-
tary of the Rhode Island State Baptist Convention,
telling him the same. He immediately fell in with
it. Then I visited every Baptist church in the city,
and secured their approval and the promise of their
attendance.

Now I had so much of my work completed, I had
not mentioned a word to any of the brethren, what I
intended to do ; for I well knew that if I informed
them of my intentions it would be carried from east
to west, and north to south, and everybody would
know it ; and would have their different views on the
subject and a way to execute them. I thought it-
would be time enough to tell them after I had accom-
plished my object, then I should not be bothered with
them. The next week after 1 had laid my plans, I
was attacked with rheumatism, and it continued for
three weeks, with no prospects of being relieved, sol
despatched a messenger to my invited auditors, telling
them I had been afflicted with rheumatism for the
last three weeks, and the prospect was that I should
not be relieved for some time to come, and should be
obliged to postpone the contemplated meeting until
my recovery, and I would give them due notice.
Four months elapsed before I was able to gain my
feet. I then found that all my past labor was in vain,
and I had got to begin entirely anew. The question



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



197



arose in my mind, whether I was going to be success-
ful or not ; if had committed sin by using deception
in laying the plans for my first meeting, it would be
useless for me to try the same over again ; but if I
had not used deception, I could reasonably expect
success. True, I had twisted points a littbinmy
favor by telling Deacon Read that I had talked with
Dr. Caldwell, conveying the idea that Dr. Caldwell
was anxious to have the meeting in his vestry,
when I was the one who was anxious, and the
Doctor concurred in my views. As I could per-
ceive nothing criminal in that act, I ooncluded to
make the second attempt; so I called on Deacon
Rend first, but found that I could not hold our
meeting in the vestry, nor could the Deacon himself
attend, as they were going to have a four weeks'
meeting. I also found that the same reason would
prevent Dr. Caldwell from attending. But the Doc-
tor said this to me : "1 will tell you what to do, Mr.
Brown, and I think it will be all for the best. The
quarterly meeting of the Khode Island State Baptist
Convention will be held four weeks from next Tues-
day, at Rev. Mr. Graves' church, on Brown street.
The meeting will close about' twelve o'clock, or a
little after. Now if you will see Brother Graves and
get his consent to have the meeting at his church at
two o'clock, I will invite the Convention to remain
back and join us in considering your offer. The house
will be all warm and comfortable." I told the Doc-
tor I highly approved of his proposals, and would call
on Brother Graves and obtain his permission and let
him know.
17*



198



WILLIAM J. BKOWN.



I called on Brother Graves and found him perfectly
willing. I extended an invitation to all the pastors
and deacons of the Baptist churches in the city, tell-
ing them that Dr. Caldwell was going to extend an in-
vitation to the Convention to remain and unite with
us. Having now established my plans, I thought it
prudent to have some of our brethren present to hear
what would be said in regard to the object. I soon
learned that our church had put upon me a heavy
task to perform, which would make me appear in the
eyes of the brethren a very foolish man and a disgrace
to the church in allowing me to represent them ; or
a very wise man in their estimation of the church
for their selection, as the church and society's busi-
ness was placed in my hands to accomplish. I invited
Deacon George Waterman, and Brethren Charles
Johnson and Charles H. Williams, telling them the
meeting would commence at two o'clock, and I wished
them to be there before that time. They promised
to be punctual. I called at Brother Johnson's house
on the day of the meeting and found him at work,
holding conversation with those present. I said,
" Come, come, Brother Johnson. It is time for you
to be at that meeting." " Hold on, Brown. I will
be ready in a few minutes." I (old him I would be
there soon, and went after Mr. Williams, and on my
way up met with Deacon Varnum J. Bates, of the
First baptist church, and he said, 41 Halloa, Brown !
Where are you going right away from the meeting ?
You have invited brethren from every part of the
State, detaining them from their time and business,
and you ought to be there to receive them." I said,



willtam j. bkown. 199

"Tarn just going to Mr. Robinson's store to notify
a brother who I am afraid will be belated. I will be
at the meeting some minutes before the time." He
said, « See that you do ; and don't make fools of
those people." I found Brother Williams, and told
him to come, and soon got him ready, and stopping
at Johnson's, took him and went to the church. I
said, " Now, brethren, I have got a task to perform,
and want you to stand by me and help me out. If
you see I am about to break down, come to my res-
cue. As for Deacon Waterman, we have no time to
bother about him." We reached the church, and
went in and took our seats in the centre of the house.
A large number was present, conversing among them-
selves. It was then five minutes of two. When the
clock struck two, one of the brethren asked, " What
are we detained for?" Some one said that Brother
Brown, a member of Congdon street church, has got
some business with us, and turning around to me, said,
" What is it, Brother Brown, you have got to say to
us, for these brethren are anxious to go home." I
arose and said, " Brethren, I have important business
to submit to your judgment. It is necessary that we
should organize in a proper way to receive it. If
any of the brethren will make a selection by a motion,
I will submit the same to the house for approval."
Some one moved that the pastor of Central church be
appointed chairman, which was seconded and received
unanimously. I then asked the Brother to come for-
ward and take the chair, and he came ; after which
the house appointed a secretary. The chairman then
called on some one to open the meeting by prayer ;



200



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



and announcing the meeting legally opened, I was
called on to state the object for which the meeting

was caked.

I ai >.-e and told them that our church was a mem-
ber of the Khode Island Baptist State Convention,
and we deemed it obligatory upon us, being connected
with that honorable body, before making any final
movement in any matter whatever, to hold a consul-
tati > i, directly or indirectly, in regard to the merits
of th - same. Mr. George Hail, a highly esteemed
member of the First Baptist Church, has made our
church and society a proposal, which is, that he will
exeh nu'e with us his lot for ours on which our house
is located, it being in the rear of his house, with only
one w ; i , of access to it, ten feet wide and ninety-three
feet long, situate in the rear of Congdon and Meeting-
streets, whilst his lot is situated on the east side of
Cong- ion street, bounded by Angell court on the
south, and larger than the lot on which our house is
located. This lot he will exchange for our lot, and
give one thousand dollars to remove our house on it
or to build a new church. Our church and society
look upon it as a profitable exchange in our favor ;
bun as we are liable to be mistaken, we felt it our
duty to apply to you, brethren, lor advice, knowing
that we cannot be too particular in procuring the best
information and from the highest source, before clos-
ing the bargain for an exchange. This is the reason
we have called upon you for advice and assistance.
The chairman said, " Brother Brown has stated the
object which has brought us together, to ask your
advice in relation to the proposed exchange of lots



WILLIAM J. BROWN".



201



made by Mr. George Hail. Now, brethren, you are
at liberty to ask Brother Brown any questions that
may be on your minds pertaining to the exchange."
The brethren then questioaed me respecting the lot
we occupied and its advantages and the lot owned bv
Mr. Hail. Afjer being questioned for an hour, a
committee was appointed, with Prof. Greene as chair-
man, to draw up resolutions in reference to the state-
ments they had heard, and submit them' to the meet-
ing for their consideration. The committee, after an
absence of twenty minutes, reported a number of
resolutions, concurring with the exchange of lots.
The committee then asked if I had any objections to
having three brethren appointed to advise with me.
I told them none in the least. They appointed Dea-
cons Hart well and Daniels and Brother F. Miller as
an advisory committee. The meeting then adjourned.
The secretary, Rev. Mr. Graves, requested me to call
on him in a few days and he would have my papers
fitted out for me. In a few clays afterwards I met
•Mr. Graves in front of Mrs. Rogers' house. lie said,
" Bi other Brown, here is your book, all fixed for you.
Yon can proceed on your mission, and I hope you
will be successful." I thanked him for his good
wishes, and went directly to Mr. Ives's counting
room. Mr. Ives said, " Well, William, how do you
succeed ?" I said, very well ; relating to him Mr.
Hail's proposal to exchange lots and his gift to the
object ; the meeting of the Rhode Island Baptist Con-
vention, their advice and cooperation, and the good
feeling of the people generally in our favor, and what
as a church we proposed to do; the situation being



202



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



very different from what it was when I saw him
last. He said, " Different, in what respect?" T then
said, u When I last saw you, I had added to my list
the names of Dr. Woods and Professor Caswell, re-
commending me to the public. 1 then called on Mr.
George Hail to get him to head my list. After read-
ing it he asked me if my folks would like to exchange
lots with him. I asked him where his lot was situ-
ated ? He said on Angell court, a lot that has a cel-
lar dug in it. I told him I did not know, but I would
ascertain. He said if we would give him a warrantee
deed, he would exchange and give us one thousand
dollars to remove our house on it, or towards building
another. I told him that I would call a corporation
meeting and let him know. I then called a meeting
of the corporation and laid the case before them,
and as far as they could see they were perfectly wil-
ling ; but to have the advice of our friends, we invited
the pastors and deacons of the several Baptist churches
in the city, and obtained the permission of Mr. Graves
to hold the meeting at his church at that time, and
to invite the members at the meeting to remain and
unite with us." I handed the book to Mr. Ives. He
examined it, and said, " You have gone the right way
to work ; now I hope you will be successful ; go
among your brethren, and I will give you some-
thing. I suppose you have got the deed of your
lot recorded ?" My deed ? I have not got it yet."
"Your paper says you have made an exchange ; and
how can you make an exchange without receiving
your deed? Now stop just where you are, and go
tell Mr. Graves that his papers are not got up right



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



203



and you must not deceive the public this way, feign-
ing to have what you have not." I thanked him for
his advice, and went to rectify the mistake. I saw
Mr. Graves just going from Mrs. Rogers' house, and
delivered the message sent by Mr. Ives. He examined
the book, and said, " This is a great mistake of mine,
and I am glad that Mr. Ives discovered it. I would
not on any account go with this book and thereby
deceive the public. I will take this book home and
correct it, and when I get it right I will leave it for
you at Mrs. Rogers' house."



204



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Our church had been in a very low state. It com-
menced to decrease in 1855, directly after our pastor,
Rev. Chauncey Leonard, left us. He had been with
us some two years, when he united with us. He
had come directly from a Theological institution.
His education was gooc, and his oratory surpassed
any pastor that ever graced our pulpit since the or-
ganization of our church. He was receiving from us
four hundred dollars a year, which was all we were
able to give, and a portion of that came from the
Rhode Island Baptist State Convention. But our
pastor was greatly in debt for his education, and if
he did not go as a missionary to Liberia, he must re-
pay them. As soon as they learned that he had set-
tled over our church, they demanded their pay, and
this brought him into such straitened circumstances
that he could not remain here and support his family ;
and having an offer from the people in Baltimore, Md.,
to take charge of a select school, and supply a church,
with a salary of six hundred dollars, he tendered his
resignation to our church and accepted the call to
Baltimore. That left us without any pastor, and the
church fell into a despondent state. Remembering the



WILLIAM J„ BROWN.



205



remark that the council made at the time of his ex-
amination for the ministry, stating that this brother
has got a good education, and if the church cannot
flourish under his labors, they cannot prosper under
any one. And some of the brethren, it appears, had
come to that conclusion. Brother Waterman re-
marked that we had better disband, as we were all
paupers, our pastor had gone and we could not do
anything. But the majority proposed to continue
together and trust in the Lord. For the convenience
of the committee, we removed their regular monthly
meeting down to Brother Gorham's house. When
the meeting had commenced, Brother Waterman was
absent. The committee requested me to go after
him and tell him he was wanted. I found him seated
by the fireside. I informed him that the Committee
had sent me after him. He replied that he had got
his shoes off, and it was no use for him to go over
there, for we couldn't do anything. I told him if he
was not going to be with us to come and get his letter,
and not leave us in that kind of style Bis wife told
him to put his shoes on and go along to meeting, and
that he was a pretty deacon ; he had ought to be
ashamed of himself. He got up and went over to
the meeting with me. The committee had but very
little business to transact, and were very much de-
pressed in spirit. Deacon Willis inquired if any one
knew of any business that ought to come before the
house. Some of them said they knew of none. I
stated that I knew of some, and I supposed it was as
good a time to present it as any. I informed them
that directly after I was brought to a knowledge of

18



206



WILLIAM J. BROWH.



the truth, I had a call to the ministry. I kept my
feelings suppressed as much as I possibly could, and
strove to do all that laid in my power among my un-
converted friends, both in walk and conversation. I
continued for months stiiving to- smother my con-
victions, until I was brought to a stand to make a de-
cision, and then I explained my call in full, after
which the striving of the spirit seemed to cease. But
when I was brought down with sickness in 1847, the
only thing that troubled me was I had refused to obey
a call from God to the gospel ministry. I made a
solemn promise to the Lord that if I was spared,
whatever duty devolved on me to do, I would strive
by his help to discharge that duty. But if I was not
spared, I believed that the Lord would forgive me
and take me home. I am coming to that conclusion.
God gave me knowledge that my prayer whs
heard, for something seems to speak within me like a
voice spying, " You will not die this time." 1 imme-
diately began to amend, and after I got well so that
I could go abroad, I went to the house of God. Now,
brethren, I have been with you, always striving to
discharge my duty, and as we are now left without
any pastor, I would tender my services if they can be
of any use to you, and you see fit to give me a trial
sermon or two. I am ready to appear before you
whenever you are ready to hear me." The commit-
tee, then asked me some questions, and voted that I
should attend the church meeting,- and there relate
my call. I attended the church meeting and related
my call, and they voted that I should have a trial
sermon on the evening of the following Thursday.



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 207

When .the evening arrived for my trial, as it was
noised about, we had a large congregation. I preached
my sermon, and they all seemed to be satisfied, and
when the next church meeting -came/around, my case
•was called up, and it was voted that the church
would license me to preach for them during the ab-
sence of a pastor, and when they had procured one
they would empower him to give me license to preach
abroad. I continued preaching for the church Sun-
day afternoons and evenings. In the morning we held
a prayer-meeting. Our members became very much
scattered when the different colored churches had
commenced their protracted meetings, but still there
were a number hung together. One Sunday morn-
ang we went to the church ; it was snowing lightly.
when we went in the forenoon, we generally remained
to afte»noon services, especially those who lived some
distance from the church, taking with them a lunch
to partake of during the day. It had been snowing
gently during the day, and when we closed our after-
noon services, it began to fell very fast, I said,
" Shall we have services this evening, or shall we
close ?" Some answered, » Just as you say about it,
Brother Brown ; if you have a meeting we will
come." I replied, "If you leave it tome, we will
have a meeting." When I returned to the church in
the evening, and was preparing to hold our services
in the hall, the number was small. Soon a couple of
young men came in. f had got the hall prepared for
our meeting and was waiting for the members to
assemble. I said to the young men, " We shall not
have any preaching here this evening as the weather



208



WILLIAM J. BROWN".



is very inclement, and there will be but a few out.
I thought I would tell you of it, for if yon want to
hear preaching von can go elsewhere, and you won't
fae disappointed.'.' They said the}*- would remain
there. I then asked if they had been to the different
meetings? They said they had. I then said a great
man}- have embraced religion, and have you not been
affected by those meetings ? They said they had not.
Soon after the members began to come, and we com-
menced our meeting ; and in m}' first prayer, those
young men pressed heavily on my mind. I presented
their case to the Lo:d, and every one that addressed
the meeting that evening carried their case to the
Throne of Grace. Before closing the meeting, I no-
tified a prayer and conference meeting at Mr. George
Haskins' house on Tuesday, and a meeting on Thurs-
day evening at Sister Prudy Jackson's house, she hav-
ing a sick daughter at the time, extending an invita-
tion to any one who wished to attend either of the
meetings. And on Friday night our regular prayer
meetings at the meeting house. When we met on
Tuesday evening for prayer those two young men
were present ; also on Thursday and Friday evenings.
We continued our meetings for three weeks, and
these young men continued their visits, when Ed-
ward Perry arose at our Friday evening meeting and
stated that he had found the Saviour. He said he once
thought he had embraced religion befo.e when he re-
sided at Newport, but after some length of time
concluded he must have been mistaken ; but now he
felt for a truth that the Lord had changed hi- heart,
and he commenced laboring for the other young man,



"WILLIAM J. BROWN. 209

whose name was Edward Terrance. He struggled
for a space of two weeks seeking peace, but coukrnot
find any. We appointed a meeting at Sister Ter-
ra nce's house on the following Monday evening for
i he purpose of helping him find the Saviour. The
evening was very tempestuous, but the news had gone
abroad concerning Perry's conversion, and a good
number attended the meeting that evening. The
Rev. James- E. Crawford arrived from Nantucket
that day, and I had the good fortune to meet him, and
invited him to attend the meeting. He promised to
come and help us, and was present and the Lord was
there, and not only helped Brother Terrence through,
but brought down his younger brother to ask for
prayers. After the conversion of those two young
men> it brought our members together, and we had
several seeking the Saviour, and were forced to open
our meeting-house to hold our meetings, for we could
not get any house large enough to hold them. And
we soon had seventeen or eighteen waiting for bap-
tism, and the church was obliged to seek forsome one
to baptize them, and on learning that Brother William
Thorn pson, of Boston, was not laboring any where, our
church wrote to ascertain what they could procure
his services for for one month, as they had quite a
number of candidates waiting to be baptised. He in-
formed us that he would serve us for one month for
twenty-five dollars and board. We engaged his serv-
ices, and he labored for us a month, baptising some
seventeen or eighteen candidates ; and still having
more candidates, we secured him for another month:
and as the interest seemed to demand it, the church



210



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



hired him for a year, agreeing to give him 1350 per
year. The church then brought my case up again, and
voted that Brother Thopmson give me a full license to
preach the gospel. He accordingly prepared a docu-
ment for that purpose. And on the Communion
Sabbath, immediately after the sermon closed, they
requested my presence in front of the pulpit, and read
to me in the presence of the church and congregation,
the document empowering me to preach the Gospel
wherever in Divine providence might lot may be cast.
By his request I responded to it, and he extended to
me the right hand of fellowship. I remained assist-
ing him whenever called upon. As I was preparing
to commence my agency our numbers increased ra-
pidly, and the church seemed to be iuspired with new
zeal, and their desire increased for the exchange of
lots that their new edifice might be erected.



WILLIAM J. BROWK.



211



CHAPTER XIX.

After receiving my book, which Mr. Graves had
corrected, I called upon Samuel Currey, Esq., to
draw up a deed conveying our lot to Mr. Hail, telling
him it was the request of the Meeting street Bap-
tist Society. Mr. Currey said he wished to see the
deed, which I carried to him. After examining it,
he said the proper parties to convey the lot were the
pew-holders, and the only way the Meeting street
Baptist Society could convey the lot, was to have the
pew-holders convey their right and title to the So-
ciety, then they could convey it to Mr. Hail. I then,
by order of the society, drew up an agreement, stating
to the pew-holders that if they would convey their
right and title to the Meeting street Baptist Society,
they could then exchange their lot for Mr. Hail's, and
the society build a house of worship thereon ; that
when said house was built and finished, they should
have their pews reconveyed to them in the'new house
as pleasantly situated as in the old one. This agree-
ment I read to each pew-holder, and obtained their
consent to exchange. I informed Mr. Currey, and he
drew up a warrantee deed, conveying the lot that our
house of worship stood on in the rear of Meeting and



212



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



Congdon streets, to Mr. George Hail. He also drew
up another deed, conveying the right, title and in-
terest of the pew-holders to the Meeting street Bap-
tist Society. I then took the latter deed, and accom-
panied by Mr. Mowry, visited each pew-holder and
obtained the acknowledgment of their signatures,
being their free and voluntary act, and for the attor-
ney's services I paid fifty cents per signature, draw-
ing the money from the treasurer, Brother Charles
H. Williams, the money that belonged to the church
which had been previously collected by sister Mary
A. Cone, for the purpose of repairing the old meeting
house. The former deed, by order of the Society,
was presented to Mr. George Hail to complete the
exchange of lots. Mr. Hail took the deed to his
attorney for examination, who informed him that the
Meeting street Baptist Society's title to the land
they wished to convey was not in his opinion accord-
ing to law, and would advise him to obtain the
opinion of the Supreme Court on the same. Mr.
Hale was not satisfied with the deed, according to the
adviee of his counsel, so the Society voted to refer
the same to the consideration of the court. The mat-
ter was brought up at the next session of the court as
a case in equity, and decided that the title was not
valid. Mr. Hail's attorney, J. G. Markland, Esq.,
stated to the society that the obstacles which pre-
vented our deed from being valid could be removed
by having the law amended, and if we would put the
case into his hands he would file a petition for that
purpose to the General Assembly of this State. The
society accepted his proposals, and voted to employ



WILL JAM J. BROWN.



213



Mr. Maryland for that purpose. The petition was
presented to the General Assembly and granted.
The next petition was to the Supreme Court, to ascer-
tain the lawful feoffees in trust, according to the pro-
visions of Moses Brown's deed, and was declared by
the court to be the City Council, which duties they
assumed. The next petition was by the Meeting
street Baptist Society, for the City Council to accept
■is feoffees William J. Brown, George W. Hambliu,
and Charles Gorham of the deed of Moses Brown,
which, according to its provisions, and the decision
of the Supreme Court, devolved on that body. The
petition was received by them and they voted to
comply with the request of the Meeting street Baptist
Society. Another petition was filed in the Supreme
Court, praying for the appointment of William J.
Brown, George W. Hamblin and Charles Gorham,
as feoffees in trust to the deed of Moses Brown, in
place of the City Council, and for the acceptance of
the resignation of said body, of the duties imposed
upon them by assuming the office 'of feoffees in trust,
which the deed of Moses Brown imposed. The peti-
tion was received, and a decree issued, appointing
William J. Brown, George W. Hamblin, and Charles
Gorham, as feoffees of the deed of Moses Brown.

Mr. Charles Gorham was taken sick and died before
we had i;ii opportunity of making an exchange of lots,
and we were obliged to file another petition to the Su-
preme Court, praying them to confer the power that
devolved on Charles Gorham as trustee to the deed
of Moses Brown, on the other trustees, William
J. Brown and George W. Hamblin, Charles Gorham



214



WILLIAM J. BROWN".



having been removed by'death since his appointment
by their honorable body. The petition was received
and the requisition complied with by the court, hav-
ing the powers then invested by the court to the two
feoffees in trust, namely William J. Brown, and Geo.
W. Hamuli n. A title deed was drawn up by J. G.
Markland, Esq., at the request of the Meeting street
Baptist Society, conveying the lot of land thereon,
the African meeting and school house wa> located, in
the rear of Meeting and Congd m streets, to George
Hail, in consideration of a lot of land situated on
Congdon street, between Meeting street and Angell
court, deeded to William J. Brown and George W.
Hamblin, feoffers for the Meeting street Baptist
Society. Both deeds having been prepared for ex-
change, I appointed Mr. Joseph Eogers to receive
the amount which Mr. Hail agreed to pay, the sum
of one thousand dollars and the lot he owned on
Congdon street, for the lot which the Meeting street
Baptist Society conveyed to him. The deeds were
duly signed and delivered to the parties to which
they were assigned, and one thousand dollars paid
over to Joseph Bogers, Esq., to hold in trust, until
it was legally drawn to cancel the debts of the Soci-
ety, and for the house to be removed off the premises
on or before the first day of April, on the conditions
that if the house, or any of its foundations, remained
over the specified time, it should be forfeited. Having
obtained the lot, we were in readiness to receive col-
lections for our new house of worship. I accordingly
issued eighteen books for collecting subscriptions
among such members as wished to collect, having a



WILLIAM J. BROWN. 215

card placed in each book containing rules and regu-
lations for collecting and making returns. After such
members had received their books for collecting, I
took the book which I purposed to use, and after ask-
ing Divine aid on my labors in collecting and direct-
ing me in the course I should pursue, I went to the
residence of Mrs. Cornelia Greene, and inquired for
her, and she requested me to send up my message. I
sent to her my subscription book. After retaining it
a few moments she sent down to know if I was will-
ing to leave my book that night with her, so she
could have ample time to look it over and she would
leave it at Mrs. Rogers' house the next day for me.
I replied that I was perfectly willing. The next fore-
noon I called on Mrs. Rogers and received my book,
and two hundred dollars in cash, one hundred with
the name of Mrs. Cornelia Greene, and one hundred
to Miss Fanny Greene, her daughter. Mrs. Rogers
then put down one hundred and fifty dollars, and
Mr. Joseph Rogers, one hundred and fifty dollars.
The next day I obtained of Mrs. Pardon Miller three
hundred dollars, and Mrs. -, two hundred dol-
lars in cash. Those were my two first days' work.
After obtaining three hundred dollars more from sun-
dry individuals, I came to a standstill, as people were
loth to subscribe. I called a meeting of the collectors
to ascertain the full amount we had subscribed out
of the eighteen books I had issued among the mem-
bers. There was only six that had subscriptions, and
the amount subscribed was sixty-two dollars. Some
of the members were very anxious to commence build-
ing, and making the same known to Mr. Frederick



216



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



Miller, who was chairman of the Advisory Committee,
he procured the draft of a house which Messrs. J. F.
and T. Hull would build for the sum of fifteen thou-
sand dollars. The Society seeing the draft, thought
the cost too much, and preferred having a cheaper
one. After striving for six months without succeed-
ing to build a cheaper house, without they were able
to pay for it when the house was completed, they
concluded to engage Mr. Hull as the contractor. I
then inquired of Mr. Hull how small amount he
should need to commence to build. He replied that
he wanted eight thousand dollars, and if I could not
obtain that amount, he did not know but what he
could begin with six thousand dollars. After striv-
ing a whole year, travelling throughout the city,
meeting with no success, comparatively speaking, I
took an account of the subscriptions from the church,
and found that they amounted to three thousand dol-
lars. Then adding the subscriptions that I had on
my book, which were thirteen hundred dollars, mak-
ing a sum of four thousand, three hundred dollars,
I requested Mr. Miller to state to the contractors how
much I had, and asked them if they would not com-
mence building with that amount ? He returned an
answer that they could not commence short of six
thousand dollars.

I commenced to travel among the members of the
different Baptist churches, and for three months I
labored day after day, but nobody was ready to sub-
scribe, and those who had subscribed at first, said
if we were not going to commence we had batter
refund the money. Finally, I took the subject to the



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



217



Lord, and asked him to touch the hearts of the con-
tractors, that, they might respond to my wishes.
I then waited on the contractors, and told them that
if they would commence our building so as to have it
in readiness to lay the corner stone on the third
day of October, 1871, I would pay them on the
second day of October, one thousand dollars, and
when they had got it raised and covered, I would pay
them fifteen hundred dollars, and if I did not have
the whole amount to pay them down, they might stop
working until I obtained the amount ; and so they
could proceed on, as each thousand dollars worth of
work was done, they conld stop working until they
received their pay. To this they agreed. We
appointed our building committee, namely, Ebenezer
P. Hallam, George Waterman, William J. Brown,
Major W. Hamblin, and Levi H. Hamblin. The
contract was signed, and the work was commenced
on the second day of October, 1871. I paid to the
Messrs.* Hull one thousand dollars and received the
receipt for the same. The next day the ceremony
for laying the corner stone commenced at two o'clock,
and after appropriate exercises, the stone was laid.
The work went on, until it amounted to fifteen hun-
dred dollars. I paid the contractors eight hundred
dred dollars. Chicago had just suffered greatly by
fire, and assistance was called for from citizens to aid
the sufferers, and money was difficult to collect ; so
the contractors concluded it would be best to quit
work during the winter and commence in the spring ;
and that would give me time to collect the balance
due of the fifteen hundred dollars. Having consented

19



218



WILLIAM J. BKOWN.



to the proposition, the contractors ce.ased working.
I made every effort to raise money, but people would
not give. The winter passed, and spring came, and
the money was still held close by our people ; finally,
I tried another method : I obtained consent to ap-
point a meeting in the vestry of the First Baptist
Church, it being the most central, to be held in the
afternoon of a certain day ; I then visited the pastors
of the several Baptist churches, and those whom I
found at home I persuaded to attend the meeting,
and those I could not find I left a note for them to
attend. When the time arrived for the meeting, seven
pastors out of twelve were present. I told them my
object in calling them together, which was to recom-
mence work on our meeting-house. The contractors
were ready to commence work, when we were able to
raise money to pay what was due on the last pay-
ment, seven hundred dollars. Those who had sub-
scribed were backward in paying their subscriptions,
and those who had not subscribed were unwilling to
subscribe ; and those who were not of our denomina-
tion said, « When your own denomination will come
up and do as they ought with their subscriptions, we
will help you ; but if they are not able to do it, let
them say so ; we have to look out for our own de-
nomination, and it is no more than right that your
denomination should look out for you." The pastors
present stated, that they had not done as they should
have done ; and as there was not a sufficient number
present, they adjourned to meet one week from that
date at the same place, and appointed me to notify
the other five pastors that were absent, and some of



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



219



the deacons from the different churches, and have my
accounts present at the nexfr meeting for examination.

At the time appointed they met, and my accounts
being present, they spent the principal part of the
the time in examining them. Being satisfied with the
accounts, they recommended to appoint one person
from each church, which should be an advisory com-
mittee, and that Frederick Miller be their chairman ;
and that the committee meet one week from date, at
the same place. When the time arrived, the commit-
tee being present, they selected from my account sub-
scribers that belonged to the Baptist ehurches that
had subscribed to any amount, and put it into the
hands of the advisory committee, that they might be
able to make an immediate payment, so that the con-
tractors might resume their work, and the residue of
the subscriptions for me to collect, together with such
other subscriptions as I might be able to procure.

The committee proposed to have a union entertain-
ment to raise funds to carry on the work, each com-
mittee to urge their respective churches to unite in
getting up the entertainment, which proved a success,
and the house was finished outside. Money again
was wanted, and the contractors were about to stop
work, and I became responsible for three thousand
dollars, and they continued. I then wrote to Mr.
Hail, as he had promised he would not see us want,
andifwecame within one thousand dollars of pay-
ing for our house, after it was finished, he would give
us that amount. I told him in my letter that our
house was paid for within one thousand dollars, and
in all probability we should be in it worshiping, but



220



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



now we were in debt three thousand dollars, and could
not get into it and get the house finished until we
paid that amount, and asked him if he would not help
us out of this dilemma. After submitting my letter
to the Lord for his directions, I went to Mr. Wall, a
broker that attended to Mr. Hail's business, and he
delivered the letter to Mr. Hail. In two weeks time
Mr. Wall received a check for four thousand dollars
for the Meeting street Baptist Society. The con-
tractors began on the work inside the house, and fin-
ished the vestry. Then they proceeded to the upper
part of the house. Mr. Miller, the chairman of the
advisory committee, informed me that he thought it
would be better for the society to have the Rhode
Island Baptist State Convention appointed, trustees,
and Mr. Hamblin and myself had better resign. I
told him that the pew-holders would have something
to say about that, as the society had to reconvey to
them their pews according to their agreement, and
then if the pew -holders and society did not need my
services I was ready to resign ; bat we were going
to have a meeting shortly, he could attend, and I
would lay his proposals before them. The meeting
was called, and Mr. Miller was present. I laid his
proposals before them, and they rejected them unani-
mously. Mr Miller then suggested to me the pro-
priety of my resigning, and Mr. Hamblin would re-
sign, and they would be compelled to have the Con-
vention trustees. I informed him that the people
had confidence in me, and had appointed me trustee,
and I should never turn my back upon them. The
house now beingfinished, the contractors placed a lien



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



221



upon it and waited on me, and informed me that they
were about closing up business, and wanted to have
a settlement on the meeting-house. I told them that
the society had no money to pay at present, and that
Mr. Frederick Miller was appointed executor on the
estate of Jane Congdon, and had held the office for
seven years, and had not closed up the estate. The
society was going to make an effort to bring it to a
close, thinking they would have means to pay whatever
was due on the meeting-house, and if they would give
us a suitable time, we would be able to settle with
them, and pay them interest for the time they waited
upon us. They said they would give us four years to
pay the debt in, and they were to receive it in four
payments, at seven per cent, per annum. I reported
it to the society, and they agreed to accept of the
terms stated by the contractors. I told the con-
tractors to draw up the mortgage deed, and I would
present it to the society for approval.

In three months time, on the first of November, the
mortgage deed was complete, and I received it from
the contractors. I presented it to the society, and
on examining it, I found we were to make four pay-
ments, and as each payment came due, the principal
and interest of each note must be settled ; and if each
note was not settled within six days after it was due,
both principal and interest, we would forfeit the
house. I told the society the first note world amount
to seven hundred and eighty-four dollars, principal
and interest, and we should not be able to collect any
money until May. As a general thing, people could
not get money to pay their debts, let alone to give

19*



222



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



the church, and if we signed that mortgage, it would
bring us under obligations to pay the money or lose
the house, and I deemed it best to hire the money, if
possible, and pay the contractor and have a complete
settlement. The society concurred in my opinion,
and voted to hire the money on the house. After
searching some time to get some one to accommo-
date us, I succeeded in rinding a gentleman who had
money belonging to a lady, to loan on interest, who
said he would accommodate us with such an amount
as we should need, providing there was no other claim
on the house, and that the society had no note
against them of any kind. I told them the society
had one note of seven hundred dollars in favor of me,
payable at a set time at seven per cent, per annum.
He said if the society would bring all their accounts
in one note he would let them have money to cancel
the whple debt. The debts of the society were made
up and found to be thirty-one hundred dollars The
mortgage deed was drawn up by the attorney of the
gentlemen that loaned us the money. The society
seeing the same, requested me to procure the money ;
after indorsing the deed I obtained the money, and by
order of the society settled with the contractors, and
received the receipt. Mr. Miller rinding out that the
settlement had been made with the contractors, and
ascertained that I had hired some money for that pur-
pose, wrote to Mr. George W. Hamblin, infor ming
him that I was applying a portion of it for my own
use, and advised him to resign as trustee. Mr. Ham-
blin supposing it was correct, wrote a statement to
that effect. I was then waited upon by Deacon



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



223



Lyon, with a written resignation for me to resign.
I informed him that I would not resign, as I was of
the same mind as heretofore. He tokl me I had bet-
ter resign ai;d sign the paper which he had and send
it down to the school-room. I told him he might as
well take the paper, as I should not resign ; I should
never turn my back upon my people. When my ser-
vices were no use to them, I was at their disposal to
dispose of. He left his paper and withdrew, and the
next day I sent his paper to the school- room.

A few months after, I had served on me a sum-
mons by the sheriff, to appear at the supreme court,
to answer the charges brought against me l>y William
M. Greene and others; to show reasons why I should
not be dismissed of the trust that I was empowered
with, on account of my age, being blind, and other
incompetencies.

Mr. Hamblin returning home to see his folks, for-
tunately, a few hours before the case was to come up,
called on me to examine the society's books, and after
being satisfied that everything was straight between
the society and me and their books, he informed me
what Mr. Miller had written him, and stated his in-
tention to recant from his former decision, and in the
presence of a magistrate, revoked his former state-
ments. When my case was called up, the document
held by Mr. Lyon, purporting to be my resignation
as a trustee and s ; gned by me, was read, which I
frankly denied as my signature. The court then
called Mr. Lyon to the stand and asked him if he
knew that document ; he answered in the affirmative.
They asked him if he saw me sign my name to it, and



224



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



he replied "No." He said he brought it to my house
for me to sign, and left it there, requesting me to
send it down the next day. Then they asked him
who brought it down ? He said he did not know ; he
saw it lying on his desk and it was signed and he sup-
posed I had signed it. The document was then
shown to lawyer Mo wry. Mr. Mo wry stated that he
was acquainted with Mr. Brown's handwriting, and
that was not his. Mr. Hamblin was next called to
the stand, who stated to the court that he had signed
a resignation, as he had been misinformed about
the affairs of the meeting-house, but when he came
here and examined the books, he found they were all
right, so he wished to resume his former position as
trustee. Mr. Hamblin was then asked if he was
acquainted with Mr. Brown's handwriting. He re-
plied that he was. They showed him the document
and asked him if that was Mr. Brown's signature. He
stated that it was not. The case was then closed up
by the court stating, that there was no cause to re-
move Mr. Brown and Mr. Hamblin as trustees, and
they could continue on discharging their duties that
devolved upon them. The society then requested the .
church to assist them to pay the interest on the
money that they had hired to pay the church debt.
The church agreed to help to pay the church debt,
if (he society would help to sustain their miuister and
allow six members of the church to join the society.
The society voted and received six members of the
church, as members of the society in full, and by the
request of the church a notice was written and pub-
lished in the Journal, of the union that was entered



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



225



into by the church and society, which was, that the
society would unite in supporting the pastor, and the
church unite with the society in paying the debt on
the house. The act of the church in creating a
union was signed by the pastor and clerk. The act
of the society in affirming the union, was signed by
ihe president and secretary. There was another plot
formed to institute another lawsuit. As they had
been deceived in removing the former trustees by
some person or persons, they planned this second
attack by proposing to create a union. After proceed-
ing thus far succesfully, another movement was made
for the church committee to unite in examining the •
papers to see what the debt was on the house, so
that the church might know how much rested on
them to pay. The society set aside their ordinary
course of business to accommodate the wishes of the
church, appointed a meeting in the vestry of the
meeting-house to examine the papers of the society,
holding a meeting once a week for that purpose, they
consumed five weeks, where all the papers of the
society were examined concerning the money that
had been received and the manner it had been ex.
pended, then the society made a second call on the
church for aid, but instead of receiving aid. we re-
ceived an answer, that they would have to consult the
Rhode Island Baptist State Convention. The society
concluded that they would not receive any aid from
the church, and voted to hire some money to pay the
interest, and empower me to make an effort to col.
lect means to reduce the principal. Having procured a
book for that purpose. I made an attempt to collect sub-



226



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



sciptions. After laboring sometime I found that some
person or persons had been circulating a rumor
that I had been using the church funds for my own
use. This rumor spread from house to house, and
from church to church, and individuals who worked
in private families carried the news to their employ-
ers, and frequently when I went to solicit subscrip-
tions, if colored servants answered the call, I was re-
fused admittance, or informed that the people were
out. Every effort was made to prevent me from get
ting means towards the principal. In order to
carry on more successfully another suit in law, and to
have the church furnish them with means, they
proposed a plan to remove my membership from the
church. Accordingly they made some charges against
my christian character, combined with embezzlement,
and sent a summons for me to attend the committee
meeting to answer to the charges contained in the
summons, and the bearer who had the summons was
told by my wife that I was sick in bed with rheuma-
tism. He was not satisfied with the answer, but desired
to see me. After being ushered to my bed room, and
was satisfied that I was sick, he went away. In a short
time another meeting was appointed by the commit-
tee, and a notice for me to attend was shoved under
my door, and when the time came for the meeting to
assemble, as I was not present, they voted to remove
my membership. When the regular church meeting
was held, they voted that I be removed from the church.
After I got well, I visited the next church meet-
ing, and was informed that I was not a member of the
church. I inquired what I had done that they should



WILLIAM J BROWN.



227



turn me out, and asked them to read the charges that
were made against me. The church clerk turned
over his book to the last meeting that was held, and said
there was no charge preferred against me, only that
the church voted to have me turned out. I was advised
by many -people belonging to the different churches, to
sue those people who signed the warrant against me
charging me of using the church's money, both, white
and colored, but I told them I should not do any such
thing, for christians are strictly forbidden going to law
against one another, and if any person or persons goes
to law against christians they go contrary to the teach-
ing of the scripture, and as my brethren went con-
trary to the word of God to injure my character and
reputation, I will not follow after them, but go ac.
cording to the word of God ; which is to pray for them,
hoping they will repent of their sins, and before they
die obtain grace enough to ask forgiveness which will
by the help of God be cheerfully given. I told them
it was against the Baptist rules to turn a, person out of
church without a cause. The church then referred the
whole matter to the committee, and I was requested to
meet them. When the regular committee meeting
came around I attended, my case was brought up,
and they could do nothing against me, and recom-
mended to the church to revoke their vote which
they passed to dismiss me from the church. At the
next regular church meeting their report was re-
ceived, and 1 was restored to the church. In the mean-
time another bill was filed against me in the Supreme
Court, charging me of hiring money in the name of
the church and using it for my own use, and also' of



228



"WILLIAM J. BROWN.



disturbing religious meetings, when I had been'
requested to desist, but refused to do it, and other
charges of similar character. I was summoned to
appear to answer to the charges. When the case came
up I was present, and a committee of five were
appointed by the Rhode Island Baptist State Con-
vention, and were present at the trial They were,
Dr. Johnson, Dr. Taylor, Rev. Mr. Everett, Deacon
Mason and Deacon Lyon. The committee were
examined by the court, first, Dr. Johnson, who stated
that he was appointed by the convention to attend
the court, and respecting the charges alleged against
me, that he had received his information from Mr. F.
Miller. The second was Dr. Taylor, who stated that
he had received his information from the same source,
and the residue of the committee's testimony was
similar. The next was Mr. F. Miller, who stated
that he had received his information from the color-
ed people. In regard to what his letters contained
which were sent to Mr. George Hamblin in Philadel-
phia, there was nothing he could vouch for, and as
the knowledge that the colored people pretended
to have, was nothing of which they had any proof,
the charges were not sustained. After hearing all
they had to say upon the subject, which occupied
three days, the court continued me to discharge the
duties as trustee. Mr. Hamblin taking up his resi-
dence in Pennsylvania, was removed from the trust,
and the Rhode Island Baptist State Convention
placed in his stead, and the vacancy of the third
trustee, which was caused by the death of Charles
Gorham, was filled by William Douglas, Esq. I had



WILLIAM J. BROWN.



229



previously satisfied the court, when I had made my
statement before them, occupying five hours on the
stand, presenting to them a sketch of the affairs of
the African meeting house, from the time that I was
sixteen years old and was appointed secretary until
the Congdon street Baptist Society had changed lots,
and from that time until the suit was filed in court ;
also answering such questions that were put to me,
showing when I was appointed by the society to
hire money and reporting whom I hired it of and the
amount hired ; showing my appointment to pay out
money, and the amount paid out, and to whom paid,
which were all in accordance with the amount given
in the Society's books, accompanied with the receipts
of the same, which were all satisfactory to the court.
After the case was dismissed from the court, the so-
ciety held a meeting and voted to communicate with
the Rhode Island Baptist State Convention, and in-
form them that if they would assume the debt of the
meeting house, they would make them trustees of
the property which was in their hands for the benefit
of the Congdon street Baptist Church. The Conven-
tion agreed to assume the responsibilities, and re-
quested the society to make up the account of all
debts owed by them caused by the Congdon street
Baptist Meeting House and all claims held againt the
society, and the Convention would be accountable
and responsible for the same. The society accepting
the statement of the convention, an agreement was
drawn up, and the property, consisting of the real
estate of Jane Congdon, together with the meeting-
house, was turned over to the Rhode Island Baptist



230 WILLIAM J. BROWN.

State Convention as trustee for the Congdon street
Baptist Meeting House. Not knowing that the Con-
vention was satisfied that I was clear from the
charges that was brought against me at the Supreme
Court, and as their committee was present when the
case was acted on, I then addressed a letter to the
annual meeting of the Convention to ascertain their
opinion respecting the rumors concerning me, and I
received from them the following certificate :

" Concerning the charges against William J. Brown,
President of the Congdon street Baptist Society, the
Board of the R. I. Baptist State Convention puts on
record its acceptance of the statement made by the
Committee which has been concerned with the affairs
of the Congdon street Church and Society that no
reason has been found for suspecting that Mr. Brown
used the funds of the Society for any but lawful pur-
poses. And the Secretary is directed to send a copy
of this minute to Mr. Brown."

Extract from the minutes of the First Quarterly
Meeting of the Board of the R. I. Baptist State Con-
vention.

W. W. EVARTS, Jr., Secretary.
Providence, Oct. 6th, 1880.

Now I close this eventful history of my life labors,
and conflicts. Hoping the errors may be passed by,
and its real merits duly appreciated, I commend this
work to the favorable notice of the public.