written by Jeanne Murray
Minutes of the Providence Baptist Church 1816-1928
Thanks to the generosity of Harvey Roberts and the trustees at Providence Baptist Church, we were able to hold in our hands a nearly 200-year old record book from the church. They have been copied and will be scanned and indexed in the near future. An index to the record book is in the Genealogy Indices sidebar link.
Beginning in April 1826, the records detail the formation of the church by members of the Baptist Church at “Cowenjock.” Listed are Francis Ackis, Caleb Ballance, Lydia Ballance, W. D. Barnard, Isaac Baxter, Malichi Corbell, Elizabeth Cowell, William Doxey, Lovie Dozier, Sarah Etheridge, Samuel Ferebee, Sr., Samuel Ferebee, Thomas C. Ferebee, James G. Hall, Samuel Tatum, Benona Trueblood, and Arthur West.
Interestingly, minutes from 1816-1817 are included after the 1826 minutes. The earliest record in the collection is a subscription list dated 9 October 1816. Subscribers agree to donate money to build a meeting house in the Indian Ridge neighborhood. The building is to be “erected between a place called the Trap and Willoughby Doziers.” Donations vary from the whopping sum of $30.00 from Josiah Etheridge to the relatively small sum of $1.00 from several people. Jacob Perkins gives both $20.00 and the land “upon which the house stands,” valued in a different hand “for fifty dollars.” The only woman on the list is the widow Mary Lamb, pledging $6.00. My guess is that the church building was begun but not finished because in 1826, the group listed above made a pledge of $1.50 to the association and appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions for the repairs and completion of the church building.
In about June 1856, there is a list of 112 members who have signed the covenant, agreeing to the rules of the church. In a later hand, there are a few notations of one name change, an apparent marriage (Mary Jane Mercer Fisher), a few deaths, and one or two who were later dismissed.
The records follow the movement of families as they are transferred to and from churches at Shady Grove, Sawyers Creek, Shiloh Church, Berea, Rehobeth, Northwest, Raymoth Gilead, and Coinjock, giving us an idea of where those people lived. In another interesting note, on July 9, 1905, the members at Providence gave money toward the building of a “house of worship at Manteo Dare County NC.” Occasionally, people are granted a letter to join congregations in Elizabeth City, Norfolk, and other places, giving us information about the movement of families during the period.
As typical in church minutes, there are a number of records of disciplinary actions. On May 10, 1857, for example, “Sister Angelica Fulford was charged with having violated the rules of the Church, as well as Christian morality, by dancing.” After being visited by a committee of church members (all male, by the way), she was expelled. Apparently dancing was quite a common offense; poor Mary Jane Fisher was disciplined for the same charge in February 1858. Dancing seems to have been the most widespread offense, with “immoral conduct,” profanity, and drunkenness occasionally causing an expulsion. In what must have been an explosive meeting, on August 14, 1875, Brother J. B. Grandy showed up to face charges of profanity and “unchristian like conduct,” but was unrepentant. The attempt to expel him was first voted down, then reconsidered, and finally held the day, and he was “excluded from the fellowship of the church.”
On occasion, there are notes of interest to genealogists. For example, there is a note that “Bro Edmund Simmons died Feby 16th 1875 about 8 oclock P M.” Also when Mrs. Margaret D. Baxter died, on Sept. 23, 1901, the records note that “the Church and Sunday School at Providence in the death of Sister Baxter has lost one of its best supporters.” A similar note is in the minutes upon the death on the morning of April 17, 1911 of J. W. Stevens, aged 65. Toward the end of the record book, there is a long list of improvements made to the church from 1905 through the date of the record, June 3, 1928. In that list, there is a note that in 1927 Mr. W. D. Ferebee put shingles on the church, noting that “he is the great grand son of the Samuel Ferebee, Sr. who helped to organize Providence Church in 1825.” The record book ends with a long list in memory of “our loved ones, members of Providence Church who have passed into ‘The Great Beyond.’” Included in the list is the death date and the age at the time of death; the earliest is the death of Miss Mary Moore, aged 32 years, who died on Nov. 27, 1886. The last is Mrs. Huldah Shaw, aged 78, who died on July 24, 1927.
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