Washington (DC) National Era, “A Minister Driven From His Church,” September 3, 1857

    Source citation
    “A Minister Driven From His Church,” Washington (DC) National Era, September 3, 1857, p. 144: 5.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Washington National Era
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    A Minister Driven From His Church
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    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Patrick Sheahan, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    Brutality to Slaves.

    The Rev. Samuel Sawyer, a graduate of the New York Union Theological Seminary, and, for the last nine years, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Rogersville, East Tennessee, was recently driven from his church in consequence of his course in regard to the beating of a slave named Anthony, by his master, one of Colonel Netherland, an elder in his church. Mr. Sawyer has published nothing in regard to the affair until driven to it – slanderous reports, prejudicial to his character as a minister, have been circulated, and forced him to his own defense. He therefore publishes a long statement in a supplement to the Knoxville (Tenn.) Presbyterian Witness, the truth of which is vouched for by Messers. Joseph Hoffmaster and J. M. Johnson, elders of the Rogersville church. The Colonel Netherland whose brutality is so disgustingly shown has been elected a delegate to the Secession Convention, called by the Pre-Slavery ministers of the New School Presbyterian Church, to meet at Richmond on the 27th inst.

    It appears that a slave, formerly belonging to the children of Dr. Ross, was owned by Col. Netherland, and was sold in 1856 to be sent to Mississippi. Rather than go “down South” the negro ran off to the woods, and remained concealed for more than a year, until found and brought back by some hunters. He was then handed over by Col. Netherland, with his chains on, to the trader who bought him, who took him back of the church, in a field, and there, in the presence of a crowd of spectators, beat him with over three hundred and thirty blows, laid on with a leather strap nailed to a board, while the slave was tied down on his back, naked and blindfolded. The trader whipped him to make him confess who harbored him, and probably would have “beaten him till Saturday night,” if such an excitement had not been caused by the first installment of scourging.

    But this was not the worst. Col. Netherland owned an old gray-haired slave, who had nursed him in infancy, and, suspecting that he knew more about the runaway and who harbored him than he chose to tell, he handed him over to the same negro trader, to be taken to a neighboring county, and there beaten at discretion, to make him confess.

    The trader took the old man to a place called Bean’s Station, in the next county, (Grainger,) and there, on Sunday morning, in a stable on the public highway, stripped and tied him naked on a plank, strapped his feet to a post, and tied his head forward to a brace, and then whipped him striking him with a carpenter’s handsaw – Mississippi way – which raised large blisters and burst them, outing the hide in pieces. He whipped him that Sunday till all the neighbors closed their doors – whipped him till all the neighbors put down their windows and closed the curtains – whipped him till the women, driven wild by hearing the blows and the negro’s agonizing cries for mercy, cried out against it – till one man declared if he did not stop, he would return him to court – till the landlord of the tavern, after hearing in silence the infliction of at least three hundred blows with the saw, went to him and told him that he must put an end to it – that he himself was liable to indictment for suffering such things on his premises and that he was unwilling to bear it any longer. The trader became very angry at this interference, and told the landlord that he had sent a boy to get him a bundle of whips, to scourge the negro’s back, when the flesh should be too much cut up by the saw; and, finally finding he could not go on, he tumbled his negro into the wagon, in disgust at the Bean Station people, and went to Rutledge. The slave had two fits inconsequence of the beating, but notwithstanding, the trader tied him up again in Rutledge jail, when the jailor (who would hardly have allowed it) was away, and beat him with three sticks from a loom over the raw flesh, until he was tired, and then told him he would try it again the next day. The inspectors, however, refused to let the jail be used for such purpose, and the negro was sent home in a week, no information having been obtained from him.

    Thereupon a great excitement arose at Rogersville, and the Church Session mildly requested Col. Netherland to come forward and show he was not responsible for the outrage. He refused to do this – declared he had a right to beat his negroes as much as he chose, or have it done – that churches had nothing to do with politics – and finally wound up by declaring Mr. Sawyer an Abolitionist, and that he must leave. Mr. Sawyer, thinking that the church would be divided if he stayed, and his friends being too much afraid of their being called abolitionists if they stood up for him, reigned the charge of this church, with its most righteous elder, and came away.

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