George Floyd Memorial
Today as I’m writing this a memorial service is being held for George Floyd who died about a week ago while a police officer held him to the ground by placing his knee on his throat and back. Four officers have since been fired from their jobs and arrested for his death. In the week following his death cities across the country, as well as cities in other countries
have erupted in protest concerning his
treatment and the treatment of many black
individuals in our country.
Irene Triplett – 155 year Civil War Pension
I find it ironic that two days ago, June 2, Irene Triplett died from surgical complications following a fall at a North Carolina nursing home, according to The Wall Street Journal. She was the last person to receive a pension from a veteran's Civil War service.
Her father, Mose Triplett, fought on both sides of the Civil War, first as a rebel and later as a Yankee. Mose realized he was on the losing side after falling ill before the Battle of Gettysburg. Almost 92% of his unit, the 26th North Carolina Infantry, was wiped out in the fighting.
The decision to switch to the Union Army did more than save his life; it earned him a VA pension, one that has paid out every month since the end of the war in 1865.
Decades after Mose left the Army, he married Elida Hall -- his second wife. A few years after they married Irene was born. Elida was only 34 years old when she gave birth to Irene in 1930. Mose was 83.
After the death of Mose in 1938 at the age of 92, his pension was extended first to his wife, then to Irene. Every month since, the VA has paid Irene Triplett $73.13. By the time of her death, the family had been collecting the pension for 155 years.
As I think about the changes that have developed in our country since its founding 244 years ago I find it simply astonishing. Think about the acceptance of the smorgasbord of people who have made this great country what it is. And during that time I’m aware that there have been times when people have had huge obstacles to overcome, from the color of their skin, their country of origin, and even their gender. But it is absolutely appalling to me that in the 155 years since the ending of the Civil War that we as a nation, at least as a whole, have had such a difficult time accepting one another as individuals and not be so caught up with the color of a person’s skin.
We as Free Will Baptist (my denomination) have a great longstanding history with those of African descent. Whether we talk about our history during the Civil War and our strong stand against slavery or we talk about Storer College at Harper’s Ferry which provided education for the freedmen or the many mission schools and churches planted throughout the Shenandoah Valley that enrolled nearly 2,500 pupils, we can stand on a history that has not been prejudice because of one’s ethnic heritage.
Elder Charles Bowles – Revolutionary Soldier –
Preacher - Black
Let me go a little further back in our history to a man who is referred to as one of the “Fathers” of our movement.
Born in 1761 Elder Charles Bowles was born in Boston. His father was an African “in the humble capacity of a servant” and his mother was a “daughter of the celebrated Col. Morgan who was distinguished as an Officer in the Rifle Corps of the American army, during the Revolutionary struggle for Independence.”
Charles was raised by his father who passed away when he was 12. At age 14, Charles served for two years in the Colonial Army as a waiter to an officer. He then enlisted in “the American army, to risk his life in defense of the holy cause of liberty.”
After the war of Independence, he married Miss Mary Corliss (his cousin) the granddaughter of Col. Morgan, and then began a pursuit in Agriculture in New Hampshire.
Charles later attached himself to the infant denomination of F.W. (Free Will) Baptists, then springing into existence. Charles “…made religion a practical, everyday matter of conscientious business.” He soon felt God calling him out for the work of the gospel ministry. But instead, like Jonah, he signed himself on as a cook and went to sea for a period of three years.
After giving in to the call of ministry, he returned home where he received a license to preach from the Conference. “He determined to identify his interest with the Free Will Baptists, to live and die with them; which resolution was strictly kept for more than forty years. At this time there were few of the FWB Order in Vermont, and he felt it his duty to sound the note of Free Grace and Salvation among the Green Mountains.”
Charles was an evangelist, a church planter, and an organizer of Conferences and Yearly Meetings. He saw people saved and churches planted throughout his 40 years of ministry. He preached in (and planted churches in) New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusets, and Canada.
Sometime during 1816, Charles moved to Vermont. On “July 24th, he came to Huntington, Vermont, and preached his first sermon.” From his message, nearly 100 souls were saved. Later in the fall, a FWB church was organized. Charles was then Ordained on November 26th, 1816 in that church.
He often met opposition, sometimes for his message, sometimes for his dark skin, sometimes both. One time in Rhode Island, he was dragged to a pump and drenched until he left the place.
On one occasion, about a dozen men banded together to take Bowles as he left the meeting place, “put him on a wooden horse, carry him to an adjoining pool, and throw him in; leaving him to extricate himself as best he might.” Having caught word about this mob he went to a place of prayer “to arm himself with the panoply of heaven, to meet the hate and malignity of a God-defying mob.”
He preached a sermon from Mathew 23:33, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” After the message some of the individuals “fell prostrate upon the floor…the mob spirit was broken, and quite another spirit seized them.”
“Brother Bowles would often on entering a new place, awaken much cruel and bitter opposition; and this from various causes; partly on account of his color… but in whatever form this opposition came, brother Bowles was sure to overcome it in a short time; his earnest prayers and faithful preaching made a powerful impression upon stubborn hearts and soon turned many of his enemies into not only his friends but also the friends of his Master.”
“I do not think that Elder Bowles would for one moment repine that in the providence of God he was a colored man.” The following incident tells the story. “While laboring one time in Pierpont, St. Lawrence Co. N.Y… a Wesleyan minister of the place speaking in the meeting, was alluding to the Americans prejudice against color; turning to Elder Bowles in the presence of the audience, he remarked, that no doubt Elder Bowles regretted that he was a colored man. Elder Bowles’ countenance lit up with pleasure, as he answered with a strong emphatic, “No! never. Hundreds have been led to Christ and converted just by my color.”
In 1819 Charles began receiving a pension for his services in the army during the war of the revolution which greatly helped him in his ministry endeavors. However, him being such a generous man and caring so much for the needs of others, he spent most of it on others and not for his own care.
Charles Bowles no doubt was one of the men who had a great impact on shaping the mind of the community in Vermont. “Truly favorable to the cause of impartial freedom, Vermont (was one of) the first of her States in the American Union, in political denunciation of the system of slavery in all its abominations: her Green Mountains have echoed the deep-toned voice of a majority of her citizens in her legislative proceedings; while the ecclesiastical proceedings of her religious bodies, especially the Free Will Baptists, have had a great influence in revolutionizing public sentiment.”
Charles Bowles died on March 16, 1843, just over eighteen years before the beginning of the Civil War. A war that should have made a difference in how we look at one another, how we treat one another, what we think about one another. Over the years following the war, progress was made but it was slow and continued to be until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Since that time, my lifetime, the pace increased and equality of individuals seemed to move in the right direction. It wasn’t fast, but it was a movement in the right direction. By the mid to late seventies, we were seeing an influx of black television shows that were widely watched and enjoyed. Warp forward to 2009 and we saw a bi-racial man elected as the President of the United States for two terms. So while by no means had we reached perfect equality, we certainly were beginning to make real progress.
So today, instead of dredging up the past 155 years of history, of which no one living had any say or control, we should pick up from what little progress we’ve made and recognize that we must do better from here forward. Politicians, law enforcement, healthcare, businesses, churches, neighbors, and me. Instead of de-evolving to a place of division and hate that cannot get past the color of skin or nation of origin, we must recognize every person as the equal individual that they are.
It’s time we recognize, biblically speaking, there are no races, (Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.) no differences. We are all one race, Adam’s race, descendants of God’s original creation. It’s time for the ignorance to end. Let’s move forward and love all men just as God so loved us. (John 3:16 “God so loved the world…”)
Information compiled from:
The Life, Labors, And Travels of Elder Charles Bowles of the Free Will Baptist Denomination, by Eld. John W. Lewis Together with An Essay On The Character And Condition Of The African Race By The Same. –Also- An Essay On The Fugitive Law Of The U.S. Congress of 1850, by Rev. Arthur Dearing (Watertown: Ingalls & Stowell’s Steam Press. 1852) Quotes from this book.
Free Baptist Cyclopedia, Rev. G. A. Burgess, A.M. , Rev. J.T. Ward, A.M. (Free Baptist Cyclopedia Co. 1886 and 1889) (Printed by The Women's Temperance Publication Association, 161 La Salle Street, Chicago, Ill.)