The Demise of Mrs. J.A. Handy: January 15, 1885

The Demise of Mrs. J.A. Handy
Christian Recorder: January 15, 1885


MR. EDITOR:-Ever since I received the painful intelligence of the departure of Mrs. Dr. Handy to the sphere of bliss and immorality, I have been desirous of making public mention of her many graces and virtues, but I have been so pressed for time, being continually on the cars, that I am compelled to pay my mournful tribute of respect at a very late date.

I have known Mrs. Handy since 1859, when I became her pastor in the city of Baltimore. Her kindness to me at that time, when I was young, inexperienced, unordained and in very poor circumstances, has endeared her to me to speak of her with more than ordinary familiarity.

If I am correct, she was born at Denton, Caroline County, Maryland, about 1825, her maiden name being Rachel Sophia Murray. But when I made her acquaintance she was the wife of Mr. James Travis, one of the leading officers of the first charge to whose pastorate I was appointed. He was a man of excellent parts and carried with him an untarnished character to the grave. Mrs. Handy (then Mrs. Travis) at that time was one of the most handsome ladies of Baltimore. Well proportioned in size, flush in her colors, active, lively, gleeful and one of the greatest church workers in the city. Indeed, she was foremost in all movements for the relief of the church or suffering humanity, also the leader of a large class of influential ladies. When a project was suggested to her and her support elicited, she was very inquisitorial, wanting to know the whys and whatfores of everything; but if it met her approval, she threw her whole soul into it, and drove the measure to a triumphant success, counting oppositions as mere foibles, except as they intensified her determination and impelled her to greater feats. She literally electrified others with her will and sentiments, yet there was no masculinity in her manner. She was every whit a lady. Hers was the force and power of a woman and not a man, a woman whose intensity of purpose spoke in her look, gesture, motion, eye-flash and mouth-quiver, as well as in her voice. She was as grand in her charities as in her person. Never shall I forget the day when my conference was approaching and even near at hand. I was passing down Gay Street, Baltimore, and met her very unexpectedly. She looked me from head to foot and said, “Are you going to conference in the suit you have on?” I answered, “Yes.” “No, you won’t.” she replied; “the ministers would think our pastor had been ditch-digging.” She passed on, but I knew it was settled. I ran home and said to wife, “Hun, I am to have a new suit for conference.” “How are you going to get it?” she asked, for she knew I had no money. I related what had occurred. “That’s enough,” she replied; “Rachel will turn Baltimore over or get you a new suit now.” I might continue with incidents illustrative of her character and usefulness, but they are too numerous.

After the death of Mr. Travis, she spent some years in widowhood and led a life of such absolute quietude that I almost lost sight of her. Finally the papers announced that Rev. James A. Handy had made her his companion, and from that time until the day of her demise, which took place October 16th, 1884, in a blissful immorality, she was regularly before the people as a helper of her great husband, for if Dr. Handy is not a great man the A.M.E. Church has none. In the death of Mrs. Handy not only does he lose a precious wife, a loving companion and a great counselor, but the Church loses a member of many graces. I also lose a friend whose memory shall be dear to the day of my death, for she was the friend of my wife and self when friendship was more valuable than tongue can utter. Farewell, Sister Handy, till we meet on the shining shore. 

 H.M. Turner

Having just read the above to my wife, she says, “Don’t forget to say that the first Mrs. Handy was our loving friend, too, and should be held in sacred remembrance, though she has been dead over twenty years.”