|Western Freedmen's Aid Commission
History and Work
The information on this page is adapted from the 2nd Annual report of the Commission, 1865
Rev. ADAM POE, D. D., Agent Methodist Book Concern.
REV. D. H. ALLEN, D. D., President Lane Theological Seminary.
HON. BELLAMY STORER, Judge of Superior Court.
REV. M. L. P. THOMPSON, D.D, Second (N.S.) PRESBYTERiAN CHURCH.
REV. R.C.GRUNDV.D.D., Central (O.S.) Presbyterian Church.
REV WAYLAND HOYT, Ninth-Street Baptist Church.
J. F. LARKIN, Firm of Larkin, Fox & Co., Bankers.
REV. J.M.WALDEN, A.M.
H. P. HOPKINS.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
WILLIAM PENN NIXON Chairman.
THOMAS KENNEDY Secretary.
DR. J. P. WALKER, M. SAWYER, E. HARWOOD, B. B. PULLAN, A. D. E. TWEED, JAMES TAYLOR, S. C. NEWTON,
REV. H. M. STORKS, D. D., REV. WM. C. M'CUNE, REV. G. M. MAXWELL, REV. D. H. ALLEN, D. D., REV. R. S. RUST,
D. D., LEVI COFFIN, J. F. LARKIN, REV. J. M. WALDEX.
1. On Ways and Means.— S. C. Newton, A. D. E. Tweed, Rev. R. S. Rust, R. B. Pullas, Rev. D.
2. On Agents, Teachers, and Physicians. — Rev. G. M. Maxwell, Dr. J. P. Walker, Wm. P. Nixon.
3. On Home Applications and Freedmen's Home. — Rev. D. H. Allen, James Taylor, E. Harwood,
Levi Coffin , M. Sawyer, G. M. Maxwell.
4. On Shipments and Transportation. — R. B. Pullan , Wm. C. M'Cune, E. Harwood.
5. On Purchases and Sales. — M. Sawyer, Thomas Kennedy, Wm. P. Nixon.
6. On Public Meetings and Lectures. — Rev. R. S. Rust, Rev. H. M. Storrs, Rev. G. M. Maxwell.
7. On Auxiliary Societies. — Rev. G. M. Maxwell, Rev. R. S. Rust, S. C. Newton.
8. On Printing and Publication. — Wm. P. Nixon, S. C. Newton, Thomas Kennedy.
9. Auditing Committee—WM. P. Nixon, Dr. J. P. Walker, Rev. D. H. Allen.
The CORRESPONDING SECRETARY 18 ex-officio member of each of those committees.
The Western Freedmen's Aid Commission was formed by a number of Christian men of Cincinnati, on the 19th of
January, 1863. It was organized to labor for the physical relief and the mental and moral elevation of the then recently
emancipated slaves — the national freedmen — of our country, who, in the providence of God, through the
prosecution of the war against the rebellion, were being made accessible to the benevolent efforts and Christian
charities of the North. Among its founders were several well-known ministers of the Gospel, representing the principal
religious denominations in the West. The principles set forth in the following declarations were adopted to express the
purposes and guide the operations of the Commission :
We recognize the hand of Divine Providence in the emancipation of the colored race, so auspiciously begun, and
giving promise of the entire and speedy overthrow of the system of American slavery ; and we believe that the friends
of humanity are thereby called to immediate and earnest effort to establish an undivided American nation, which shall
be based on free labor, and free and Christian institutions.
We will seek to operate under the authority of the Government ; and, following the march of the army and in the path of
emancipation, relieve, so far as possible, the immediate necessities of the freed people, and do whatever else may be
required by the condition of society in the South as affected by emancipation.
The rights of those who are declared legally free should, if possible, be secured, and they should not be permitted to
remain a burden upon the country, nor be disheartened by abuse or neglect.
It is, therefore, the first purpose of this Commission, in dealing with the freedmen, to aid in supplying their physical
wants, and then in providing them homes and employment, encouraging their organization into communities, and
furnishing them such instructions as their case demands, that they may be prepared for the duties and privileges of
At the outbreak of the rebellion there were in the States of Tennessee, and Arkansas, and those portions of Georgia,
Alabama, and Mississippi now held by the National forces, and of easy access for our Commission, above nine hundred
thousand slaves. It is impossible to say how many have been forced away from this section. The larger
proportion, however, remain, and are not only free, but likewise may be reached with the means of relief and the
agencies of civilization.
Within the limits of the new free State of West Virginia there were about ten thousand slaves. In Kentucky and Missouri
there were three hundred and forty thousand slaves, whose status was not affected by the Proclamation of
Emancipation. Missouri has been made free by the action of her people, and is now included in our field of operations.
Kentucky still holds on to the "peculiar institution;" but it is probable that the present Congress will declare the families
of colored soldiers to be free, in which event our work in that State, now confined chiefly to freed people from other
States, will be greatly enlarged.
The Western Commission was organized with special reference to the wants, physical and moral, of the freed people in
this great Central and Western Region. It has an area of two hundred and eighty thousand square miles, and, in 1860,
had, including twenty-five thousand free blacks, a colored population of more than one million, two hundred and
fifty thousand. This whole region is so easy of access from the free States in the Mississippi Valley that it was a plain
duty to institute some association through which the benevolence of the people in these States might operate in behalf
of the freedmen. It is well that the work was organized in Cincinnati, as the whole slave region in the West, now
reoccupied by the Government, is most readily reached from this city by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, their
navigable tributaries and important and connected lines of railway. Louisiana and Texas, with a slave population in
1860 of more than five hundred thousand, are not mentioned above, they being about equally accessible from the east
by ocean and the west by river navigation; and the successes of the National arms in the central and western region
have been so rapid that, except to meet very urgent appeals, we have not extended our work beyond it. We operate at
three points in Louisiana.
Families of Colored Soldiers.
Among those needing relief often are families the wives and children of freedman in the ranks of' the National army. It
may pertinently be asked, why do not colored soldiers support their families with their earnings, equally with white
soldiers? They do this generally when and where they can reach them. But many of the colored men now in our ranks
were forced from their families by rebel masters, who hoped thereby to retain and secure them, and, hence, now they
do not know where their families are to be found. Others, who came into our lines with their families, have, since their
enlistment, had no moans of communicating with them. The duties of the soldier may call them in one direction; their
families They find a refuge and a home only in another direction ; they can not keep up a communication, and there is
no general system of registration to aid them in ascertaining each other's place, and hence, in many instances, when
the colored soldier receives his pay he can not share it with his family. It is also true that they were only paid about half
as much as white soldiers till this matter was corrected and justice awarded them by a recent act of Congress. It must
also be borne in mind that when freedmen enter the service of our country, they seldom can leave their families in
homes where they can be secure and receive sympathy and relief from a loyal community, and hence, when sick or in
need, which in their neglected condition must often occur, they are compelled to seek an asylum in the "Freedmen's
camps," and depend upon such relief as the provision of the Government and the charities of the North may afford.
The same is also true, in every particular, in regard to the families of freedmen employed as laborers in the service of
To contribute and labor for the relief of other classes of the needy and dependent freed people is a work of humanity;
but to do this for the families of men who are rendering valiant service as soldiers, and doing necessary work as
laborers, for the country, thereby diminishing, by many thousands, the demand upon the North for men, is both
humane and patriotic — an act of gratitude as well as Christian charity.
We find orphan children in every camp and in every city and town where the freed people are congregated. This is a
result necessarily incident to the severe ordeal through which the colored race is passing. Many of these little
friendless, homeless ones are the children of colored Union soldiers who have fallen in battle. Mothers, widowed either
by the war or by slavery, have died from diseases often occasioned by exposure, privations, and fatigue, leaving their
children in the most helpless and destitute condition. In the single camp at Davis's Bend, below Vicksburg, there are
more than six hundred children of this class. There is no better work for the hand of charity than to collect these
innocents, wherever found, into asylums, and gather around them, as far as may be, the influences of home. We have
one of these orphan homes on President's Island, under the charge of Miss Eliza Mitchell, a most efficient matron, in
which some thirty-five children are provided for. We are interested in one at Columbus, and one at Clarksville,
Tennessee. We have also contributed supplies to one organized in Memphis by Mrs. S. A. M. Canfield, an energetic
and devoted laborer in behalf of this needy class. There should be good asylums at other important points, and we
must continue to direct a portion of the means entrusted to us to the extension of this needful form of relief.
The Educational Branch of our work has increased in interest and importance. As the camps have become established,
the facilities for teaching in them have been improved; as the freed people able to support themselves have become
settled in cities and towns, schools have been successfully organized among them; and the camps of colored soldiers
have also presented favorable opportunities for the teacher's labor. We have increased the number of our teachers as
rapidly as the state of our treasury would admit, but at no time have been able to support as large a number as might
have been advantageously employed. During the year we have commissioned sixty-seven persons as teachers; during
the first year we commissioned twenty-eight.
Report in American Freedmen Vol 1, Issue 2
The Western Freedmen's Aid Commission had forty-seven teachers in the field, of whom thirty-seven furnished regular
reports. Part of the remaining ten were in school only a portion of the month, as at Nashville, where the work was being
organized, and at Clarksville, where it was being re-organized. The schools at Pulaski and Athens, Tenn., not reported,
were in progress during the month. Another at Huntsville, not reported, is in the 44th Regt. U. S. C. I. The very meager
report from Chattanooga, a most important point, where about four hundred scholars have been in school at a time,
resulted from the interruption of the work for want of buildings for school purposes. The deficiency here materially
affects the aggregate for the month; as, for instance, but for it the enrollment would have been not less than 3,200.
Names and Locations of Teachers.
It may be a matter of interest to know where these persons have been and are laboring, as indicating the extent of the
field in which we are bringing elevating influences to bear upon this oppressed and degraded people. During the year
we have had teachers located as follows:
Nashville, Tennessee. — Hugh W. Boyd, Joseph M'Kelvey, Stephen Ward, G. W. Hubbard.
Murfreeshoro, Tennessee. — Miss Maria B. Wannemaker, Miss Ann L. Cosper, (now Mrs. M'Intosb,) Mrs. Letitia Faurot,
Miss Mary L. Faurot, George AV. Weeks, Miss Elizabeth E. Tuttle.
Gallatin, Tennessee. — William P. Stanton, Mrs. Hannah S. Varney, David Hadley, Alida Hadley, Hannah Hadley,
Millikiu Stalker, Miss Mary Snell, Mrs. N. M. Kaull, Miss S. Amanda Kerr, Mrs. Mary E. Hartley, Miss L. L.
Clarksville, Tennessee. — William Brown, Mrs. Mary M. Brown, Miss Hannah Hughes, Miss Mary Grim,
Fort Donelson, Tennessee. — William I. Hutchins.
Columbus, Kentucky. — Miss Mary H. Johnston, Miss Sarah A. Burgoyne, J. L. Roberts, transferred from Helena,
Memphis, Tennessee. — Levi E. Thorne, Miss Rose M. Kinney, Miss Esther S. Otis, Mrs. Eliza A. Dow, Miss Marian L.
Cook, Miss Josephine M. Henshaw, Mrs. Sarah R. Pierce, Miss Lois N. Hinmau, Miss Mary E. Waters, Mrs. Ella A.
Thorne, Miss Eliz'th T. Bootz, Miss Nellie V. Kimball, Rev. Thomas N. Stewart, Miss Rachel M. Stewart, Miss Mary E.
Cooper; also temporarily employed, E. C. Branch, his wife and daughter, Miss E. M. Parker, and Miss C. E. Parker.
President's Island. — Miss Eliza Mitchell, Miss Mary L. Kingsbury, Miss Mattie E. Taylor.
Helena, Arkansas. — J. L. Roberts, Miss Henrietta Baldwin, Miss Mary L. Fox, Miss Mary A. Carter.
Milliken's Bend, Arkansas. — Miss Lydia C. Beck with.
Duvall's Bluff, Arkansas. — Miss Susan T. Sackelt.
Little Rock, Arkansas. — W. W. Andrews.
Vicksburg, Mississippi. — Mrs. M. C. Watson, Mrs. Lydia E. Thompson, Miss Mary E. Pinkham. Mrs. Hannah S. Varney
has been transferred from Gallatin to Vicksburg.
Natchez, Mississippi. — Miss Hattie C. Daggett, Miss Mattie W. Childs, Miss Augusta Wolfe, Miss Cora R. Sisson.
Huntsville, Alabama. — Mrs. George Stokes, Miss Mary A. Stokes.
Freedmens Home, Cincinnati. — Miss Hettie Burns.
The following have been teaching colored soldiers :
Kentucky. — Charles W. Sibley, at Camp Louisa; Rev. Charles Ives Burnett, at Vanceburg.
Tennessee. — Miss Mary E. Eberman, Miss M Ellen Fuller, Mrs. Cordelia Edson, Miss Frances A. Noyes, Rufus Way
Smith, at Memphis.
Mississippi. — William T. Ward, E. H. Brewer, J. C. Ferree, at Vicksburg; Rev. Phineas Mixer, at Natchez.
Number of Scholars.
During the year there have been enrolled in our schools about five thousand scholars, most of whom received their first
instruction from our teachers. In addition to these there have been about two thousand men and women taught in night-
schools and schools in regiments. Soldiers can only attend school every other day, so that a regimental teacher can
instruct double the number usually assigned to other teachers. Compared with the mass of" Freedmen already to be
found in the Mississippi Valley, the number which we are educating may seem small, but if our work be considered in its
proper light as the beginning of a general and systematic effort for the elevation of a race, even what has been done
must be regarded with interest by the friends and patrons of the cause. It is a matter of equal interest that the work of
the teacher has been attended with marked success. All of our teachers have had experience in Northern schools, and
their uniform testimony is, that they never found white scholars so eager or more ready to learn. Men equal to the
duties of the soldier, women who are mothers, and even gray-haired grand sires, are as anxious and almost as ready
to learn as the children. A strange and wonderful spirit seems to have taken hold of this hitherto passive
and inert people.
Besides the means expended in employing, transporting, and providing for our teachers, we have furnished during the
past year 50,507 new school-books, 7,874 slates, and a considerable amount of paper, pens, pencils, etc., necessary
to furnish the schools. We have received and distributed a great many old school-books and two Sunday-school
libraries. We have also purchased and distributed several hundred Sabbath-school singing-books. As soon as the
physical wants of the freedmen are in a measure relieved, few things are more welcome to them than books. As the day
of their freedom dawns, it seems every-where to inspire, them with a desire to read. Books, ever vigilantly withheld
by slavery, are now received with wondering delight. It would appear that in the very possession of what has so long
been under ban, this poor people find an assurance of their freedom and a pledge of its perpetuity. The privilege of
studying them is a restored prerogative, which they are ready to improve, though they may not comprehend its
significance as the earnest of the recognition of their common humanity, and the acknowledgment of their unalienable
The work of education, to accomplish the highest results, must, like that of relief, be twofold :
1. That which pertains to common school instruction.
2. That which pertains to domestic and industrial pursuits.
In establishing schools for the first of these purposes, we have studied to adapt them to the condition of the freed
people. Everywhere they are found unable to read and write, and very many of them are ignorant as regards the
simple and common duties of life. This is almost invariably the case with that large class who have been field hands.
With these, a knowledge of domestic duties, instructions as to cleanliness, etc., are quite as essential to a Christian
civilization as a common school education. They must learn from the teacher a great many things important in their
elevation, which in a free community our sons and daughters learn in the home and from society. We must carry to
them both forms of instruction, and hence a school for them comprehends more in some respects than in the North.
The teachers who labor among them, under the auspices of our Commission, are expected not only to teach reading,
writing, and other useful branches, but also to give such instructions in ordinary domestic and industrial habits as will
make them neat in their homes, economical in their customs, and thrifty in their pursuits. It is important that the schools
be furnished with thread, needles, thimbles, and the like, as well as with books, pens, and paper, that the teachers may
devote some time each day to teaching the females such homely and practical branches as cutting, and making, and
even mending clothes.
The second form of education is prosecuted more thoroughly and with more system in what are termed " industrial
schools." In them the women and girls are taught to sew neatly and well, and to cut and make every necessary article of
clothing ; the boys work at some useful trade, as at Clarksville, where they are taught to make shoes. The members
of these schools are compensated for their labor, by which means they may begin to provide for themselves by their
own industry. We have had teachers in such schools at Memphis, President's Island, and Natchez, and have furnished
material to two other schools besides. Such schools, properly managed, will be efficient in the elevation of the freed
people. They will tend to develop ideas of self-dependence and self-support, which have been crushed out by slavery.
Place them under the direction of competent persons, and large quantities of new goods may there be made into
garments, and second-hand clothing repaired and refitted" so as to render it far more serviceable than if distributed as
By proper and energetic movements in this direction, these schools will, alter a little time, become so effective as to
relieve from a double task many of those societies of noble women in the North, who prompted by feelings of humanity
and patriotism, are dividing their increased labors between the soldier and the freedmen. The careful habits, the
notions of economy, and the feelings of self-reliance developed by such schools, will be an incalculable blessing to the
many who are employed and instructed in them. In fact, those schools are indispensable to the highest results of
Christian benevolence in behalf of the freed people.
One or more should be established and supported in every camp, and supplied with plain materials for the manufacture
of the most needful clothing, bedding, shoes, etc.
From "WM. P. STANTON, Teacher at Gallatin, Tennessee.
In a former letter I gave a short account of the condition of the Freedmen at this Post, and of the opening of a school
for their benefit. At that date the school had only been in operation a few days, so that even an opinion as to its
probable success double perhaps have been premature. I could only state that it opened with a large list of scholars,
that the number was daily increasing, and that they appeared to be learning quite rapidly. Now, after more than two
months have passed, it gives me pleasure to be able to say that so far the success attending the undertaking has
exceeded my most sanguine expectations. It is true that we have met with great opposition, and that, too, from an
unexpected source; and that the school was commencing in face of a threat of mobbing, house burning, etc.; that in
fulfillment of that threat our school-house was set on fire and was only saved by the efforts of some colored men who
chanced to discover it. Notwithstanding this opposition and the many discouragements that must necessarily attend
such an enterprise, we have gone steadily forward with the work before us, feeling amply rewarded by the
consciousness that, in some degree at least, we were aiding in the accomplishment of a great and good work.
Our list of scholars, which at first numbered a little over two hundred, was soon increased to more than three hundred;
the average attendance being about two hundred and fifty; a large proportion of them adults. We find this number
affords more than enough work for five teachers. The school is divided into four departments, or rather four rooms, for
no attempt has yet been made to grade them.
Each day's exercises are commenced by reading a chapter in the Bible, and usually singing a hymn. Almost every
colored person can sing, and some of them have remarkably fine voices. They are not "scientific" by any means, but
what they lack in science they make up in earnestness and enthusiasm. They have many hymns of their own; some of
which seem to be a sort of miscellaneous patchwork, made up from the most striking parts of popular Methodist
hymns; others seem to be entirely original, some of them bearing a close resemblance to their manner of "shouting" on
occasions of revival, with the difference that they have tolerably-correct meter, and usually some kind of rhyme. These
are almost always songs of rejoicing, and abound in allusions to "de river of Jordan," "de Promised Land," "Canaan's
happy shore," etc. Evidently their faith has never been tried by the endless disputations of "babbling school men;"
and so far from admitting such questions as whether heaven is a. place or condition, to their imaginations it is real and
palpable as the hills and vales of Tennessee. The golden streets, the crystal fountain, the angels with their starry
crowns and glittering harps are to them something more than the beautiful figures of speech which worldly wisdom has
declared^l them to be. They are distinct and living realities; the immediate surroundings of the throne — not of the
'^Invisible," as Byron has it, but of the visible eternal presence of the Father himself, with the Son sitting at his right
hand. Would it not be well if our learned theologians could exchange some of their cold, gloomy abstractions for the
simple, though warm and living faith of the poor negro?
In addition to their hymns they delight in singing patriotic Union songs, which they do with great spirit and energy. r>y
far the most popular piece with them is the "John Brown" song with its thrilling chorus:
" Glory, glory, hallelujah; his soul is marching on!"
I had heard this chorus before, and thought that I could fully understand why it was so universally popular, but I confess
that I had never realized its deeper significance till I heard it sung out in triumphant tones by the united voices of
two hundred of the same people for whom the old hero freely offered up his life.
A few years ago four colored men were condemned by a lynch court and hanged upon one tree in this place for the
expression of "incendiary sentiments,'' or rather because, in the depth of their wickedness and ingratitude,!?) they
failed to appreciate the heavenly beauties of the "divine institution." The tree which has their gallows stands in plain
view of the school-house, and so close that the echoes of the song are borne upon the breezes through its spreading
At such times looking on it, and thinking what a great change a few years have produced, I have felt like joining in that
triumphant strain: " Glory, glory, hallelujah; his soul is marching on !"
Once I asked the scholars if any of them could tell any thing of the history of John Brown. One little fellow very promptly
responded : " He was a captain dat went to fight widout havin men enough." Another — quite a small boy — gave
a very correct account of the "Harper's Ferry invasion." All of them — even those who could tell nothing of the
circumstances of his martyrdom — seemed to regard him as their hero; to know that he had in some way sacrificed his
life in their behalf.
The question, ".Are the negroes susceptible of a greater degree of intellectual development than they now exhibit?''
has long since ceased to be a question, except with those who are too stupid to discern a plain truth, or too stubborn to
acknowledge it. But there are many' persons who, forgetting the common origin of the human family, and accepting as
eternal truths the silly vaporings of conceited writers about the natural supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race, honestly
believe that though the negro is undoubtedly a rational being, he is radically, hopelessly inferior to almost every other
race. This may be true, but there is no proof of it, while there is strong presumptive evidence that the apparent
inferiority may be ascribed entirely to the force of surrounding circumstances. Those who assert to the contrary are
confronted by the stubborn fact that throughout the slave States there is a large class of white persons not superior
either in intellectual or moral development to the most degraded class of slaves. If any one feels disposed to doubt this
statement, let him come South and see for himself.
There is another fact of sufficient significance to be worthy of some notice. Not only in our schools here, but in every
other school tor freedmen that I have seen or heard of in this part of the South, a large per centage of the pupils
present the appearance of having quite a copious admixture of the purest Anglo-Saxon blood, ranging from mulattoes
to those so white that the most practiced eye could scarcely discern an African taint. The natural supposition would be
that these would manifest a decided superiority over those who are supposed to be more directly descended from Ham,
and who should by entailment come in for much the larger share of that somewhat undesirable heritage known as
" Cursed be Canaan." I have had excellent opportunity for observation upon this point now for nearly three mouths, and
can say in all truth that if there is really any difference in the mental .ability of the two classes, I have been unable
to discover it. And this is not my evidence alone, but the evidence of every teacher of freedmen with whom I have
spoken. In every school a fair proportion of the most apt scholars will be found among (hose having the appearance
of being of unmixed African descent.
The members of our own school, taken all together, are making as rapid progress as any class of white children that I
ever saw. A large number are now reading pretty well, who were learning the alphabet two months ago. They
seem to feel more interest in learning than white children usually do. I suppose this is because they have heretofore
been denied the privilege. Idlest of them have remarkably retentive memories, capable of retaining almost every thing
they hear. Sometimes in giving object lessons, I have purposely made use of difficult words used in description of
objects, qualities, etc., and on questioning them some days afterward would almost invariably find that they could not
only repeat the word, that could use it properly.
Are they orderly in school? Not remarkably so. Who ever knew scholars that were, without great training? They are
very lively and good-natured, not by any means inclined to be rebellious or stubborn; but having had no previous
training except in mischief, it is somewhat difficult for them to restrain their propensity for frolicking fun and practical
jokes, such as from time immemorial have been the delight of school-boys and the plague of pedagogues. Most of the
larger scholars, however, conduct themselves quite civilly, and, every thing considered, there is not more trouble or
vexation connected with government than in many schools in the North. If the teacher of freedmen feels the proper
interest in his vocation, and conscientiously devotes his whole energies to its prosecution, he will succeed, and will be
amply rewarded for all his toil and trouble.
The teachers may continually bear in mind that the slaves have heretofore received no moral training whatever, but on
the contrary have received from their chivalrous masters a thorough training in vice, so that many even of those
who are evidently sincere in their professions of religion are accustomed to look upon some of the most serious
breaches of moral law as errors of trifling importance. Though I am inclined to think that the well-known character of
Topsy is but slightly exaggerated, I am compelled to say that I have not yet discovered very many Uncle Toms. But
notwithstanding the fact that slavery has kept these people in a state of lamentable ignorance and degradation, they
are not so low but that they can feel the need of improvement, and will gratefully endeavor to profit in every effort that
is made in their behalf. I am fully satisfied that the world does not now afford any other field tor missionary labor
where the call for earnest, active workers is more imperative, or where the reward will be more ready and sure.
In conclusion, let me say that this is a work in which every friend of human progress should feel himself especially
interested. Let me entreat those who may chance to read what I have written, not to withhold their needful aid, luit
while enjoying the bounties which Providence has graciously bestowed upon them, to remember the thousands who are
languishing, not only for physical nourishment, but for intellectual and spiritual food.
From JOSEPH M'KELVEY, Teacher at Nashville, Tenn.
Dear Sir, — My labors among the Freedmen as teacher during the months of April and May were chiefly confined to the
contraband camp situated one mile west of Nashville. The condition of the camp physically was any thing
but a pleasant one. Many of these poor wretches lived in their tents without even a blanket to keep them from the
ground, and having been brought up under brutal influence and tyranny were altogether unfitted to manage orderly
household affairs, and "make the best of the worst." In consequence of exposure from want of shelter, disease and
dearth, in an almost pestilential degree, walked through the camp day and night. I visited each tent at an early day,
ascertained the wants of the inmates, and obtained from our store the clothing necessary to their comfort, for which
they called down upon my head a thousand times "God bless you, dear brudder !" "I'm exceedin'ly much obliged,'" etc.
These blessings I transfer to the heads of the honorable Board under whose auspices I was laboring. Disease,
however, continued to an alarming extent. On this account I accomplished very little in the way of teaching during the
first two or three weeks. No house in which to teach, and the surgeon in charge of camp forbade my keeping the
children out of their tents more than half of each day. They were very irregular in attendance, owing to sickness and
frequent deaths; scarcely a morning did I go to camp on which I did not find that one or more had died during the night.
Of course, teaching under such circumstances was rather difficult.
The little Africans met us each day, on entering the camp, with outstretched arms, striving who could get the first shake
of our hands. The attention given by them was soul-inspiring. Often remained under the tree which constituted
the roof of our school-house till they and we were warned to separate by the chilling coldness of the weather. At length
obtained a tent in which I met with them in a more comfortable style. Their advancement was rapid. Several who
did not know a letter when first met with them, by the first of June could read short sentences without hesitation. With
singing, in which we often joined, they were particularly delighted. and would engage in it with an earnestness
that far exceeded the soulless manner in which this exercise is frequently performed in the North. After dismissing
school, which was generally about one o'clock, my business was to visit the tents, read and talk with the sick, in
which exercise, I must confess, from want of such experience, I was very backward about engaging at first; but their
earnestness to hear soon cured me, and I now reckon the hours thus spent among my "golden hours." . . .
Prom Miss HATTIE C. DAGGETT, a Teacher at Natchez, Miss. .
[The following letter shows the desire felt by the aged to learn to read and write, and illustrates the importance of our
Rev. Mr. Walden: Dear Sir, — As I am only an assistant teacher this year, you will receive through others a statistical
report of the schools in which I am teaching. Yet I think it may be interesting to you to have a somewhat more
full account of what I am doing than their short report will give you, and acting upon that thought will write a report —
letter form — of my own.
When I reached Natchez the 2d of November, the day-school had been in operation a month and the night-school only
one evening. Mr. Marsh wished to make this night-school a large, model school, and to appoint two or three teachers
whose especial duty it should be to teach in it, and chose Miss Wolff and myself as such teachers, giving us missionary
work as employment during the day. But the Primary Department under the charge of Miss Sisson becoming larger
than she could attend to, we have gone in as assistants — Miss Wolff taking change of part of the scholars during the
morning, numbering from forty-five to fifty, and I taking charge of the same division in the afternoon. The half day
remaining to each of us is generally employed in missionary work. So you see we are not idle, though we can send to
the Association no statistical report.
I am most interested in the night-school, and it is of that I will give you some account.
When the school commenced, the first of November, it numbered some twenty-five scholars, of whom the greater part
were in A B C, one could read in the Fourth Reader, and five or six in the First. At the end of the month we had
registered 178 names, with an average attendance of 120. The school is divided into three divisions, designated by us
as Primary, Junior, and Senior. Miss Wolff has charge of the first, which is a class of some forty ABC scholars, I of
the second, which includes the Primer, First and Second Reader classes, and Mr. Bingham of the third, which is the
Fourth Header class. Mr. Bingham has also a superintendence over the entire school. The session is from 6 o'clock to
This school is formed almost entirely of old people, there being not over half a dozen children, while about one-fourth
are sixty and over. The progress which these old people have made is wonderful. Two who are seventy years old, that
commenced with a "a-b, abs,' the beginning of the school, have read through Sander's Primer four times, and are now
in the Second Reader. My class that commenced the First Reader the first of November, read it through during the
month, and the first of December were promoted to the Second Reader, forming a class of 25, and all reading with an
ease and fluency that would put to shame some classes reading in the same book I have heard in our Northern
schools. This class is also studying arithmetic and making considerable progress. I have also another class in First
Reader, which is doing well. The third week in November Miss Wolff sent to me from the Primary Department a class of
20. They had none of them put the letters together in the form of words. I kept them two evenings in words of two
letters, and three evenings in words of three, and at the end of the week there was hardly a word in two or three letters
they could not call at sight. They are now almost half through the Primer. Another class sent out the week after,
composed mostly of men and women sixty and seventy years of age, are reading easily in words of three letters. It is a
touching sight to see these old people "gettin' learuin'," as they call it, coming there night after night — the older ones
are the most punctual in attendance — some of them with heads gray, and eyes so dim they are obliged to bring with
them two pairs of spectacles, one pair to use in reading from their books, and the other to see the Avords and letters
on the charts and blackboard; and often when I take the book to hear them spell, the perspiration stands in drops on
their faces, in their anxiety to spell correctly, and their fearfulness lest they should forget. We shall soon form these
older one's into a Testament class, as their chief desire seems to be to be able to read the Bible and the hymns from
the hymnbook. Aunt Anne, who was once severely whipped when a slave for attempting to learn to read, and who was
reading in the Primer in our night-school, came into the Sunday school three weeks ago, and listened to the repeating
of the Commandments by some of the little boys. The next day she came to my room, and handing me a Bible open at
the 20th chapter of Exodus, asked me to hear her read the Ten Commandments, saying she knew she should make
mistakes, but not wishing me to correct them till she had finished. I heard her read them, and had only two corrections
to make. I then asked her how she had learned to read them so well. She answered, "Miss Hattie, when I hoard those
little boys say the Commandments in Sunday school yesterday, I thought I could never go there again. It hurt me so to
think that they could say by heart what I, an old woman over seventy, could not even read. Yon don't know how bad it
hurt me. Den I said to myself, 'I'll know them too,' so I took my Bible and went off to the woods M'here nobody could
hear me, and picked dem out, and now Fse so proud I can read dem.'' She has learned them since. Uncle Jerry, also
between sixty and seventy, thinks he does not get along fast enough, and despairs of ever being able to read the
hymns in church ; so he told me the other day that he was going to get some one to attend to his business for him, so
he could go to school day-time and night too.
We have taken pains to learn the history of our scholars, and in very many cases they have a very interesting one to
relate. Some have been owned by slave drivers, and tell us that many is the negro they have been compelled to
whip to death by their master, he meanwhile sitting by with folded hands, smoking a pipe and singing. Others have had
their sons and husbands taken from their beds at night and hung by the roadside for trading with the Yankees, or
wishing for freedom. Truly this evil has been hydra-headed in its nature, which has taken away man's freedom, making
a chattel of the image of his God — telling him he is not a man, that he has no rights above the lowing herd and
groveling swine — burying his intellect, and making him almost think he had no soul. And we can not be too glad that
the long-promised day has dawned for this suffering race, when darkness, ignorance, and ruin shall be dispelled by
light and knowledge, and,they too can boast of liberty, equal rights, schools, and education.
From 8 o'clock to 8.} we have a writing class, in which the whole school join, a few having copy-books, but the greater
part copying on slates letters and words from the blackboard. When they can form the letters well on their slates, they
are promoted to the copy-books, and the oldest take as much pleasure in learning to write as the youngest. Oral
instruction is also given in geography to the whole school, all apparently taking interest in the exercise. We wish to
make our school, both day and night, one of, if not the best on the river, and of course will keep making improvements.
The school is on the increase all the time, and in our next report we hope to be able to give the numbers of the night
school as amounting to at least two hundred, if not more.
From Miss MARY L. FOX, Teacher at Helena, Arkansas.
Rev. J. M. Walden, Cor. Sec. W. F. A. Com., — At the time of my last report I had closed school for vacation, but as
Miss Moore, teacher at the Colored Orphan Asylum, needed rest very much I taught some for her. I have new
commenced my own school, and have one hundred and sixty-one scholars enrolled; average attendance, one hundred
For three weeks I taught from seven and a half to eight hours a day, but as Miss Baldwin returned yesterday, will
hereafter teach six hours. Besides the number of scholars given above, I had a class of thirty-six soldiers; the same
that we had taught during vacation; but in justice to the school, will be obliged to give them up. I am very- sorry that
there are not enough teachers to teach all the soldiers, as they are so very anxious to learn, and consequently make
very rapid progress, and they probably have more leisure now than when the war closes.
From Mrs. LETITIA FAUROT, Teacher at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Rev. J. M. Walden, — When I wrote you last I was waiting for the church to be fitted up to teach in. It was ready on the
fourth day of January. We went in that cold morning, and found a few children there. The house was very
open, there being many places where the hand could be thrust through between the shackling boards which were
nailed up in place of broken windows and doors. I first thought it impracticable to remain there; but two much-interested
colored men were engaged trying to nail some coffee-sacks over open spaces which there were no boards to cover,
and their cheerful earnestness in telling me how much labor they, with the aid of a soldier who had started the school in
another church, had spent on the house, and how much they hoped I would be able to teach in such a place, gave me
courage to take hold of the work uncomplainingly.
The first day only sixteen scholars huddled around the two broken stoves which could not produce heat enough to melt
the particles of snow which fell from the children's shoes under it; but we spent the day more comfortably than we
expected to on first entering. One of the men there was a colored Baptist minister, who could read, and another a pupil
of his who had come from Shelbyville to study under him for the same noble work. The two men kept up good
fires, and went to studying with an earnestness not often beheld. When they could write down a column of figures on
the slate, and add it up. They showed a delight which would almost make one forget the cold, uncomfortable house. As
the weather grew milder the number of scholars increased. We now have eighty-eight.
Teaching two and three classes in the same room at one time makes more noise than is agreeable in a school-room,
but we accomplish much more, and they learn much faster than if we heard but one class recite in the room at a
time. The little I have been with this people assures me that as respects talent to learn they stand about on par with
other children I have taught. I have never met any other children so very eager to have it come their turn to read,
or Avho could quite equal them in enduring cold and uncomfortable positions to have the privilege of reciting their
From Miss LYDIA C. BECKWITH, Teacher at Blake Plantation, Louisiana.
Rev. J. M. Walden, — When I wrote you last I was at Milliken's Bend, La., teaching soldiers of the od Regiment, Miss.
Inft. A. D., and the Freedmen around the camp. Since then the regiment was moved to Snyder's Bluff, about fifteen
miles up the Yazoo River; and the camp there hardly being a suitable place for ladies, and there being no
conveniences and but little opportunity for teaching, we have commenced another school here in Freedmen's Camp,
on the Blake Plantation, which is between Snyder's Bluff and Vicksburg, and about eight miles from the latter. There
were about five hundred here when we came, but there are not so many now; some being employed on other
There are three teachers, and we opened our school with about one hundred and fifty; the most of them between the
ages of six and eighteen. There has been a constant change in the school on account of families moving out and new
ones coming in, so that between two and three hundred have learned the alphabet and commenced to read. By a
recent change in the camp our number is quite reduced, but the prospect is it will be increased soon. I have a class of
twenty-five that have learned their letters since I came, that can spell very readily in words of two and three syllables,
and can read easy reading quite well, and are now learning to write. The most of our scholars here have pur- chased
the Elementary Spelling book themselves, and we try to supplying them with easy readings from various sources. We
have received several packages of the little paper, The Freedman, and We cut out the stories, and paste them on
thick paper, and make cards of them, which assists us very much.
We have Sabbath school every Sunday morning, with an attendance of about two hundred, and we take turns in
interesting and instructing them. The exercises consist in teaching them hymns, a few verses from the Bible, telling
them Bible stories, and reading appropriate and instructing stories from other books, and moralizing from them, etc. A
portion of our time after school-hours is spent in visiting around in the camp, and distributing sanitary stores to the
most needy. The children as well as the people generally have improved very much in many respects since we came.
From Miss MARY L. KINGSBURY", Teacher at President's Island, Tenn.
Rev. J. M. Walden, — . . . For two months, with the exception of one week spent in visiting the whole camp, and
distributing clothing, the schools have gone on uninterruptedly and with gratifying results. AVitliout, perhaps,
wonderful improvement in reading in my own school, I find them learning the hardest and most important lessons— to
study and govern themselves. With the most discouraging prophecies as to the possibility of keeping order, I have
succeeded in obtaining it; and, as an illustration, I mention that my school rises, class by class, at the stroke of the bell
with rarely a word from me. I have nineteen little girls, from four to nine years of age, who are spelling from chart
entirely; foe which purpose I am obliged to use an old cast-off chart. No. 9, which is too advanced for them. Please
send i\Iiss Hendron and myself each a set of M'Guffey's modern charts; they will be of great service to us.
I have one grown woman who just knew her letters when she came; she has attended school ten days, and is now
reading nearly half through the First Reader. A class of boys numbering eight, who began with the alphabet, are now
somewhat in advance of her. In consequence of changes in the camp many of my scholars have been taken to other
places, and some of my most promising ones, so that my school is now reduced to fifty-eight — quite as many little
ones as I could teach to advantage in so small a room.
From Miss HENRIETTA BALDWIN, Teacher at Helena, Ark.
Rev. J. M. Walden, Cor. Sec. W. F. A. Com., — I will give you the following instance illustrating the progress of our
scholars, not properly belonging to a regular statistical report. A class of three, who are not above the average in
mental capacity, and who have had no special training, commenced school with a knowledge of the alphabet, but
unable to spell or pronounce words of even two letters; knew nothing of writing; could add and subtract, but not
multiply, small numbers, and knew few of the figures. After seventeen days' school, two of the class having been absent
three days each, they could read with little hesitation lessons in the First Reader, embracing the words "learn," "what,''
"lessons," "exercise," and could spell correctly most of the words; could write legibly without copy; could numerate, and
one of them could write any number less than a thousand, and all of them could perform problems in addition, and
repeat part of the multiplication-table. Twenty minutes daily were allotted to a reading and spelling lesson, and half an
hour to arithmetical exercises, in which all the scholars joined, and which were varied to suit the different attain-
ments of the scholars, some of whom were in advance of the class mentioned, while there were almost daily one or
more new scholars present. Considering all the circumstances, is not their progress equal to that of the generality of
white scholars ?
From Miss ANNIE L. CASPER, Teacher at Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Rev. J. M. Walden, — . . . We had a pleasant and interesting school. I have never found scholars who learned more
readily than those poor little slaves — for many of our scholars are yet slaves. One little fellow who came to
school but three months, commenced with the alphabet, and at the expiration of that time could read well in the third
Reader. One man eighty-five years old learned the alphabet in two days; he said, "I only want to get so I can read a
chapter in the Bible," and in five weeks he could read the coveted chapter readily
From Miss JOSEPHINE H. HENSHAW, Teacher at President's Island, Tenn.
Rev. J. M. Walden, — 'My school numbers about forty-five regular scholars, twenty males and twenty-five 'females. I
have a class of five women that have learned their letters and read very readily in words of two syllables. I have an-
other class of twenty-five boys and girls from eight to twelve years of age, that are reading now, and read very well
indeed; they did not know a letter when they commenced. Then I have a class of A B C scholars, some fifteen in it. . .
The scholars are very fond of music, and 1 devote one hour each day to the schools, teaching them such hymns and
other songs as are suitable for them. I find these children obedient and most eager to learn, and when the weather is
such that it is unsuitable to teach in the school-room they almost always come up to my room and peg to be taught. It is
pleasant to teach when pupils are so ready to receive instruction.
Joining the AMA (from the American Freedmen)
Our readers will observe that in the list of auxiliary societies published on the first page, the names of the Branches in
Cincinnati and Cleveland no longer appear. The reason is that those societies, by uniting with the American Missionary
Association, have withdrawn from this Commission. We part with our friends and colaborers, with whom we are
nevertheless still united by the bond of a common sympathy, with the utmost good feeling though with sincere regrets.
A word of explanation is due however, both to them and to ourselves.
Last Fall, a representative of the American Missionary Association visited the West and laid before the different
Branches of this Commission there, proposals for a union with that society. No proposition looking to a National and
organic union was made to this central office, nor was even any information given us that any plans of even partial co-
operation in that direction were under advisement. The argument for such co-operation as proposed, was the
anticipated diminution of machinery and agencies. The argument against it was the difference in the purposes and
therefore the principles of the two societies; the American Missionary Association being organized for missionary work
and therefore necessarily conducted on essentially denominational principles; the American Freedmens Union
Commission being engaged for our educational work only, and therefore embracing all who were willing to co-operate
in such a foundation of Christian truth and morality. Our Western friends were left to decide the question then
proposed to them, without interference upon our part. The societies at Cincinnati and Cleveland accepted the
proposition and entered into an alliance which necessarily works as a withdrawal from the Commission. The societies at
Chicago and Detroit declined the invitation, determined to continue the prosecution of this work in fellowship with their
former associates and upon the principles which have rendered that prosecution so successful in the past. It is proper
that our fiends and former contribution in the West, especially, in Ohio and Indiana, should understand this. Such to
them as desire to continue to contribute to the work through the instrumentality on this Commission, should, in the
absence of a special agency in those States, send their contributions either to the North Western Branch at Chicago,
the Michigan Branch at Detroit, or to Mr. Geo. C. Ward, the General Treasurer.
From the American Missionary 1870 p 112.
The Western Freedmen's Aid Commission.
We are glad to communicate to our readers that the following account copied from the Cincinnati Chronicle, of the
blending of two branches of the Freedmen's work in Cincinnati, O. The aim of both has been the same, and for several
years past the operations have been in harmonious co-operation. But the action recently taken gives complete unity
and will be followed, we trust, by increased efficiency.
The Final Meeting of the Board--The Address to their Supporters.
Some time since the fact was published in the Chronicle, that the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission was
contemplating the propriety of turning over their property and work, to the Middle West Department of the American
Missionary Association, headquarters at Cincinnati. After lengthy consideration and the appointment of a committee to
especially investigate the whole matter, the Board have, by unanimous vote, had their designs carried out. One week
ago last Friday, Wm. Penn Nixon, President, and Joseph F. Larkin, Treasurer, were directed to execute the necessary
deeds to pass the property of the Commission, to the Association, in question. On Friday, March 11th, the Board met
for the last time, and completed the signing of the minutes and resolutions of transfer and other matters necessary to
complete their work. Thus this Commission, which has been one of the most active and efficient in the work of
educating the freedmen, and supplying their physical necessities, has ceased to exist as a working body. It will be
gratifying to our readers, however, to know that none of the workers in the good cause will cease their exertions, but
simply change the channel through which they labor. The Middle West Department of the American Missionary
Association, is essentially Western in its organization, and will retain the especial features of the Freedmen's Aid
Commission, together with the prestige of a powerful and permanent national institution. The Board of Directors of the
Commission cordially recommend it to all their friends. The following is a list of the names of the members of the Board,
and the address which they issue to the public:
Board of Directors--Hon. Wm. Penn Nixon, Levi Coffin, Rev. R. S. Rust, Dr. J. P. Walker, E. Harwood, Esq., R. M. White,
Esq., Rev. G. M. Maxwell, Rev. A. Ritchie, Rev. J. B. Stewart, Rev. H. D. Moore, W. C. Gray, Esq., Rev. E. M. Cravath,
John Webb, Jr., Esq., R. B. Pullan, Esq.
The Executive officers of the Western Freedmen's Commission issue, in connection with this announcement, as able
"Address to their supporters," from which we copy the following late resting items:
The members of the Commission having set their great movement in motion in the West, and having impressed their
plans and ideas of educating and developing the freedmen, in the work throughout the Southwest, have felt for the last
year that the mission of their organization was about completed, and have been looking about them for an association
to which they could turn over the work with an assurance that it would be carried on in a manner satisfactory to
themselves and their friends and supporters. They have decided in favor of the American Missionary Association, for
the reasons that it is less open to the charge of sectarianism, and its managers more thoroughly familiar and imbued
with the plans, spirit and workings of the Commission, than any other. For more than three years we have been working
through their officers and agents, and they through ours, without a jar or a word of discord. We feel, therefore, that we
can leave our work to them with an assurance that it will be completed after the plans, and in the spirit in which we
began it. 'The change' will cause no pause in any department. Not a school will stop, nor a teacher cease his labors.
We esteem it our duty here to say a word in regard to our venerable friend, Levi Coffin. The good record of this
Commission should be set down largely to his credit. His influence at it birth, and his incessant labors and the influence
of his name, both in this country and Great Britain, did more to build it up and sustain it than anything else. After a life
devoted to securing the abolition of slavery, "it is in the fitness of things" that "the evening of his days' should be so
influentially continued in the same line of benevolence. We are glad to state that his labors do not cease with those of
the Commission, but that he will continue in the same relation to the work with the American Missionary Association as
heretofore to the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission. He will continue to represent our work, especially in connection
with the permanent normal schools which have been founded and fostered by the Commission. This, we take it, will be
voucher sufficiently; if any were needed, that economy, benevolence and the true missionary spirit will prevail in every
department of the work.
The transfer of the Commission will in no way change the administration in the Middle West Department. The work will
continue under the same officers, assisted by the same advisory board as during the past year.
We also desire here to express our gratitude to our friends of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Continent, for their
generous contributions made to the cause of education in the South through this Commission. They have done a noble
work, and we are glad to leave as a legacy to coming generations permanent institutions such as Fisk University,
Nashville, Tenn., Ely Normal School, Louisville, Ky., and others of prominent character, which shall stand as living
monuments of their Christian liberality.