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Samuel Hill, abt 1780
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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Samuel Hill, born abt 1813

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samuel Hill was born in Virginia during the Revolutionary War and most likely to a enslaved mother and fathered by Henry Hill, (whether slave or free) who was serving in the forces under command of George Washington. 

No doubt, Madison Hemings and his brother Eston Hemings would have known Samuel Hill after, and perhaps even before they migrated into Ross County around 1833.  The several generations of African, Native American and European heritage souls in Virginia before the booming 19th century, ... knew or had intimate knowledge of one another long before "Babylon fell." 

The first question that comes to mind is, why did so many folks freed in Virginia, including ancestors of Singer Nancy Wilson, ... apparently go to Chillicothe, Ohio? Military land warrants?  Benevolent White Christians? The related second is about who built First Anti-Slavery Baptist Church therein? Men of means or mothers for a place to sing the gospel and inspire their offspring? Both?  Plantation preachers?

  

There is no evidence of any plantation preachers being called, like Moses, to lead believers from Virginia to liberty in Ohio or anyplace else.  Nat Turner was a Virginia Tidewater preacher and his rebellion was courageous, ... but so far is known was not intended to leave Virginia but rather to punish James River slave owners, and recruit other slaves to join them.  It had the effect of proving to courageous male slaves they could escape and hide out indefinitely in the swamp lands of the Virginia Peninsula in the vicinity of Union Fortress Monroe.  On the eve of Civil War, Robert E. Lee advised Jefferson Davis to abandon the entire area with an estimated 25,000 or more runaway young Blacks, ... as indefensible by the rebels.      

Equally apparent for screen writers to know is the first great migration to liberty occurred not following the Civil War, ... but during the period of 1803 through the 1840s when various Black and White led abolitionist movements came into full motion, like Joe Frazier, punching south into the great ante-bellum slave holding State of Virginia?  It is ridiculous and ignorant in view of historic facts to imagine that most people escaping slavery did so via the underground railway though noble the cause was.  Most of them escaped by having the courage to leave, and they did by the thousands before and during the Civil War. Abolition was the "calling" for mission work by all who claimed to be safe and "saved" up north in Ohio, Michigan and Canada where its cold and wet but free to be. (Not ironically, slave owners heard the clamoring and claiming of salvation in abolition, ... and concocted a counter strategy plantation preaching that salvation was not via deeds but faith alone.)

Whether by river or mule driven wagon, we know they came by the thousands from Virginia, migrated with a spirit of community in Christ "to be born again as citizens of the United States or Canada," ... not evidenced simply by building church buildings for "down home preaching" but via activities of their daily lives to "help somebody." Indeed, it was this first great movement that heralded the coming of Christ to set African-Americans free from poverty, ignorance, disease and despair, ... not the third one a hundred years later to industrial jobs and opportunities in places like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York City. We repeat because Pentecostal minded writers have tendencies to begin story telling and even gospels in middle of given truths rather than beginnings, and then call it inspirational.  It is no wonder that so many hundreds of thousands of Black gifted boys like Jimmy Baldwin, ... grew up confused about men generating body and spirit of a living Christ.  

The existence of Henry Hill, an African-American freeman, born in Virginia, and served in the American Continental Army during the Revolution, ... is of great interest to us as a possible distinguished missing link in the history of Virginia born African-Americans in Western Virginia (including modern-day West Virginia), Western Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio and Eastern Ohio in the post-Civil War era.  He was by all accounts a typical free-will Black Baptist without ideological ties to any organized religion or priestly hierarchy other than Christ himself and directly accessible by believers baptized in HIS body and spirit. 

Men like Henry Hill were founders and trustees of churches for worship and education of their children.  Most were truly free-will believers and few accepted or believed anything not from the mouth of Christ himself, ... and rejected most of what some preachers liked to demonstrate about their biblical knowledge.   They routinely hired and fired preachers to teach "The Word" as written in books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, and nothing else ... plus baptize offspring in free-will age of 10 to 12 years. And, officiate at funerals and marriages of families, by families for families to be generated in Christ and as they believed and recited: 

 "In the beginning was the Word, and   the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [John I]  

It was rare indeed before the 20th century to find any educated African-American ministers cite Acts and other books attributed to self-proclaimed Apostle Paul and his designated followers.  The obvious reason is that slave owner plantation preachers were taught to preach that Paul approved of slavery, "servants be loyal to your masters." To them, Paul was Saul.  In the face of such adversary teachings, preachers to freed Blacks in places like Ohio were demanded to be loyal to the abolitionist movements by congregants!  Such men never believed, prior to the 20th century that all one needed do was pray to be saved, ... and patiently stay in place to await "the Second Coming" or rewards in heaven for being faithful servants. 

Their interest as espoused by ministers like Frederick Douglass was what occurred before Pentecost, ... not afterwards.  Rather they knew from their own biblical digestion that Jesus and HIS disciples were hardy men who worked with their hands as carpenters, liverymen, masons, fishermen, sheepherders, leather-workers, farmers, boatmen, wine-makers, fathers and husbands.

They did not stay in place, nor build  temples and tithe money for lazy priestly robed and jeweled men to live comfortable lives like a fat and lazy oversized plantation preachers, ... most of whom never lifted a finger or voice to end slavery or even segregation in the life-time of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  But, there were and still are enough disciples in the cause of salvation to do as Christ asked of HIS believers like King and Adam Clayton Powell, ... at great personal sacrifice.

We are opposed to literary outputs that skip over real sources and routes by which chattel slavery began and ended.  It is ignorant to disregard African-American spirituality in Virginia to be free and help liberate others, ... even the ignorant cousins sold into and born in the deep south cotton fields, and mansions of meanness.  Indeed, by time of the Civil War to set them free most African-Americans, male and female, on deep south slave plantations not only couldn't read or write; but lacked knowledge of east from west, and north from south.

Slave plantation owners deliberately avoided naming their fields with customary geographic descriptions such used in free states.  Instead of referring to their 100 acres of farm land north of their mansion house as "the north 100," ... it would be described to slaves as "the Dog Run fields" or perhaps as in Salem, Virginia "Ash-bottom" and thousands of other descriptions used to prevent slaves from gaining a knowledge of geography and running away to pursue liberty.  Despite notional suggestions by many Black writers that slaves learned to escape based on slave songs like "Wade In The Water," ... successful runaways were far more complex.

Most runaway attempts ended in failure and severe punishment, ... with slave owners often chaining them like animals and even cutting off limbs to prevent future attempts.  White southerners before the war made extensive use of State militias and slave owner financed "regulators" to pursue and capture runaway young men and women, ... whose basic means of escape was the lesson learned to only move at night and "follow the North Star."

And, of course a runaway had to believe he could, possess courage to try and faith that God would be with him in failure or success.  The courage of Harriet Tubman, not just her success among James River slaves, ... proved that God was with people of great faith. Young men hiding in the swamps called her "Mother Tubman" and young women praised her as their "Moses." Most plantation preachers feared that she would come among their "flocks."

So, whose ancestors did not attempt escape to join Union forces to free others?  Who joined and why?  Was Henry Hill of Ohio in 1803 a direct ancestor of Henry Hill of Roanoke, Virginia in 1903?  The research challenge has been to try and find the extensive links of lives that generated people we know to have existed such as Henry Hill and William Hill (father of Cora Lee Hill Atkins) of Salem, Virginia, ... born in the 1880s era when hundreds of thousands of African-American extended families were struggling to be whole and know one another. African-American writers in particular should not ignore the reality reasons as to why upwards of half the 200,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army and Navy were recruited from Union states, ... particularly non-original states like Ohio and Michigan (including cross-over returns to Detroit from Canada). 

We have struggled to keep in mind that America's Civil War like the Revolutionary War before it, ... spanned generations and was one of politically dynamic movements in: 

(1) religious driven ideologies; (2) abolitionist activities; (3) public policy conflicts;  (4) strategies by great minds of lawyers like Abraham Lincoln and Judah P. Benjamin; (5) planning by government and rebel policy makers; (6) fighting by thousands of regiments; (7) programming, and expending of a million lives and billions of dollars; (8) emancipation of four million human beings; (9) providing "protection from "pharaoh" angered by their escape from bondage; and last but not least (10) generating families of faithful that would cherish and remember:

"what the Lord thy God has done to liberate thee."

Words such as above, perhaps uttered from mouth of Sojourner Truth, ought not be taken so lightly by Black novelists. Her faith was witnessed by millions, and ought be remembered along with other prophets that folks choose to believe without believing mysterious possibilities that human bodies can be vessels for vibrations of intelligence not commonly received or digested by the common man, woman or child?  The amazing question for us to remember is the woman claimed that she communicated with God?     

The fact is we do not know which leads to our faith that is a product of our free will to believe or not believe. True, most entertaining preachers make the claim but time sooner or later tells their intentions and pretentions about special relationships with the Almighty to gain confidence of ordinary mortals, mostly women, ... to give them money which many covet and worship most.  In any event, we believe there are possibilities, like the mysteries of musical sounds that touch our souls, or a mother's vibrations about the life of a dying child, ... some human beings may receive signals others do not hear.

However we dare wonder and doubt any preacher who imagines God could talk to old testament prophets but not new ones?  If Sojourner Truth was not a prophet, what was she?  Just another Black woman with a sharp tongue?  Who among descendents up from slavery have eyes to see and ears to hear?  Spike Lee?  Maybe some courageous novel writer about lives of a few good Black men and women?  Maybe get Oprah Winfrey to portray Sojourner Truth?  The issue is not about glory but critical attempts to salvage generations of youth who have absolutely no idea as to why they are here.

Click below for greater insight to Ohio's history for novelists and screen-writers to know and maybe write something that can inspire youth to view themselves as more than "ghetto nothingness."

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=3349&nm=First-Regular-African-Baptist-Church-of-Christ-of-Chillicothe

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