Visit to Wilberforce University
Christian Recorder: July 31, 1873
I closed my last letter at Wilberforce University, which place I left in company with the scholar and logician Rev. James H. A. Johnson of Baltimore.
Having Cincinnati as an objective point, our jaunt was rapid, and pleasant and a fellow could feel like taking a car snooze, the fleet footed iron steed whiffed out a thundering neigh and pranced into Cincinnati, which famous city, by the way, ought to have been entitled Appalachia, instead Cincinnati, for this queen city of the west, is elevated on one of the most sublime possibly of any of the Appalachian core. The towering summits, the overlaying folds, the deep gorges, the majestic undulation, and the adjacent scenery must have surpassed the fancies of the wildest imagination, at that place fifteen thousand years ago. But judging from the small observations I made (owing to the intense heat of the weather) while in Cincinnati, these former elevations have been planed down by the glacial and drift periods about five hundred and fifty feet, if not six hundred, while their debris, borne by the tireless energy if he Ohio river, have been conveyed down the Mississippi valley, to fill the Bayous Lagoons, and such marshy reservoirs, and were the theatre of fearful combats, death struggles during the reptilian age. The massive stones which make up most of the fine edifices of city of Cincinnati were in part the work of the encrinites, brachiopods and gastropods of lower Silurian epoch. Showing beyond doubt or cavil, that the corrosive agencies of nature and the metamorphic forces of primitive heat, have flowed down these lofty peaks through the Tertiary, Cretaceous, Jurassic, Carboniferous, Devonian to the lower Silurian system.
The same shattered relics stud the highway nearly to Richmond to Indiana, the late home of Bishop Quinn. I was compelled to exclaim as I walked the streets of this proud city and noted her granite porphyry, &c. What countless ages sweeps me! There towered billions of tombs, of creatures which lived and passed….. There played thousands of children and strode thousands of men, women, and whose bones were the mere structures of Phosphates and carbonate of lime, which once formed the rough exterior of the trilobites and the minified creatures, that gambled in the ocean and laughed in the flowing rivulet.
There laid the extending side walks and base retreats….by the laws of chemical affinity and cohesion, a thousand feet beneath the blue waves that once swept over the planes, that now constitutes the ground floe of the State of Ohio. But as I did not sit down to write a treatise on geology, I will come to the point.
Elders Johnson and myself spent several days here as the guests of Rev. B. W. Arnett; the Pastor of our mammoth church in Cincinnati which by the way is an ornament to our entire connections. For one to comprehend the magnitude and facilities of this great religious edifice, they must see, and examine it. For could too much be said in commendation of its educated and refined congregations. Sabbath 22, three strangers preached: the writer leading off, at half past ten o’clock. And permit to say, the sermon was a miserable harangue of disjointed ribaldry. The preacher, puffed, blowed, and snorted around nearly an hour, and sit down; and tried to look as though he did not care but he did. He felt like stealing into augur hole, but there was none there. At 3 o’clock P.M. Elder Johnson of Baltimore preached, and proved himself a polished shaft.
At 7 P.M. Dr. Young of New York, lighted the torch of pulpit glory, that made Christians shout, and sinners tremble.
Rev. B.W. Arnett the pastor of this church is a young man of fine attainments and a noble heart, possibly I have never met a gentleman with whom I become so thoroughly fascinated is so short time. I predict for brother Arnett the highest honor our church can bestow, should his life be speared. His library exhibits fine taste and superior art in culling books. One of his best traits is his entire freedom from this narrow minded jealously, which too often crops out when ministers visit each others pulpit.
He is a worthy successor of that other pulpit master Rev. R. Johnson, formerly of this city but now of Columbus, Ohio.
I might confine this letter to an elaboration of things as they transpired or presented themselves while in the queen city, but let us proceed on our journey. Elder Johnson and I left on the 26, en route for Indianapolis. Finding myself in company with a man of much exalted intellect, I did what is very unusual, placed myself at his command, and asked no question. And in a few hours I was comfortably seated at Richmond Indiana in the splendid residence of Madam Bishop Quinn. Here I would like to draw a picture of what came under my observation, but I forbear because of the sad bereavement which has so lately visited her affections and untiring devotion, but I think any one might covet homestead and her surrounding comforts without being charged with the crime of avarice. The finest piece of ornamentation, however, to which my attention was attracted, was the lady herself.
Her tastes, and sensibilities combined with a polished fastidiousness, has empressed itself open every piece of furniture and flowerpot on that place.
Early in the morning of the 27th, we resumed our journey and were soon in Indianapolis. Here we as a church are well represented in a magnificent congregation, and a wide awake minister.
It is useless to refer to the Bishops and elders who constitute the Board of Managers of the A. M. E. church, it is not enough to say, the reports from all sections were cheering and encouraging.
Bishop Wayman the idol of our church, is in charge of the western diocese and high does he stand in the estimation of all.
Rev. Mr. Mitchem the pastor of the leading church in this city, was the only minister I found who was too good. He passes such a super-fluidly of complimentary encumbrance, that when he introduced the writer to his splendid looking congregation, he issued forth such a stream of encomiums and panegyrics, the speaker stood before the audience utterly paralyzed and such string of ridiculosity as he sprung there for about a hour, never heard in that city before.
He left the church not only ashamed, but feeling like a man, who had the gout, dyspepsia, diarrhea, fever, back ache, tooth ache, rheumatism, neuralgia, and cram in the left toe all at the same time.
But fortunately Elder Burley had to preach at night, and he insisted on the writer to fill his place, which he did to his satisfaction. Had he left the city without relieving himself from the terrible effects of his first sermon, he would have stole out of town without paying the usual respect to the people, GOOD BYE!
Bishop Campbell, however, had laid the corner stone in the morning of a mighty edifice of pulpit power. He scaled the heavens, and measured hell with the word of God. The earth trembled beneath his feet, and rocky hearts were shattered by the invulnerable hammer of God truth, as he slung it with more than transcendental skill. Elder Woodlin preached at night, and rumor reported him as presenting a person six feet high, with shoes soles which groaned under four hundred pounds. He spoke with the voice of a lion and rocked his auditors like an earthquake.
Monday I started for home and just arrive in time to follow one of my children to the grave. And here seriousness gather around my heart and I beg the privilege of saying no more.