White Oak Primitive Baptist Church Documents
At the Heritage Center, volunteers are always pleased when a visitor finds answers, particularly if it's been a long search. Recently a collection arrived that has enormous potential to answer many questions.
The new collection contains documents, beginning in 1802, allowing slaves to join the White Oak Primitive Baptist Church. There are many small slips of paper naming the individuals who are referred to as "servants." Only a few of the slips use the term slave or property. They state the name of servant, saying the individual has permission to be baptized (or immersed) into the Baptist church. Because the individuals were considered property, permission was necessary. Peter, Matty, Moses, Aga, Sam, Rachel and even Cupid sought their owner's permission. The owners' names are still familiar today: Taliaferro, Fitzhugh, Pratt, Dunbar, Hooe, Brooke, Thornton, Gray and Skinker.
Examples of typical permissions are "The bearer Peter has permission to be baptized at the White Oak Church. I know of no reason why he should not be. His conduct for the last two years has been very good" and "My man Jack has been a good and faithful servant for the last ten years, he has my permission to join any religious community that will receive him."
One of our readers read about the collection in the July newsletter. He contacted the Center and asked to review the documents. This man is a member of Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church, formed 150 years old ago by the members of White Oak Primitive Baptist Church. He is hoping to trace some of the original members of White Oak Primitive Baptist Church and see if any can be connected to the founders of Bethlehem Baptist. Although in most cases, the people seeking permission to join White Oak Primitive Baptist Church don't have last names, some of their given names (Cupid) are unusual. It may be possible to trace them to the founding members of Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church. Stay tuned.