DeBose/Welch, the story of a family, sent to this new country, to share its gifts and talents in the development of a new world. The African selected to come over here were selected because each had a specialized skill, for which the slave masters were willing to pay significant amounts.

The Methodist Church was very much involved in the institution of slavery in the British North American Colonies. The advantage taken from that involvement was that they kept records.  The ordination papers of Alexander DeBose are still on file and his record of ministry can be validated. Simon Welch and  Alexander DeBose were slave ministers selected by the Plantation owners to teach Christianity to its slave population. Christianity played a significant role in slavery and the management of its work force. Scripture encourages submission and obedience, and slaves are encouraged, through scripture, to obey their masters. Christianity also encouraged slaves to delay any earthly gratification and instead live for the day when they would die and go to heaven with Jesus, who would have all of their rewards. The story of the DeBose /Welch men brings a remarkable story of strength and accomplishments. What man intended for evil, God intended for good, and these two families produced a line of preachers and teachers who quietly transformed the American society. Family values and rules of spiritual cultural behaviors were passed down, enabling men and women to overcome all obstacles, giving room for no excuses. Thomas DeBose, an educated man, records the works of his father, the Rev. Alexander DeBose and his contributions and record with the Methodist Church in Florida. It is from this work that we get the story of this great family. The writer would like to thank the several members of the DeBose /Welch family who took time to sit with the writer, an anthrolopologist, and shared family history, during family reunion occassions. There are hundred of DeBose/Welch members all over the country, and encourage them to submit articles relating to the family, in our book, share the story, America needs it.

 

The Courage to Serve and The Strength To Survive

The DeBose/ Welch

Delores E. DeBose Richardson Harris Harrison (writer)

Jacob DeBose   Wife Katie                                            1789

Alexander DeBose Wife Mamie Whittaker                1832

 

James DeBose Wife Laura Welch                                 1864
          

             Jacob DeBose a slave born in 1789[1] in Camden South Carolina on the Brevard plantation. He came into the world around the time George Washington became president of the United States. Jacob lived in one of the states, which permitted and encouraged marriage. His wife name was Katie; they had eight children. The names of the children were Alexander, George, Charley, Joseph, Jacob, John, Sarah and Mary. Alexander DeBose, Jacob’s son was born in 1832 and was destined to live a life, which made it possible for written records to be passed down through generations. Alexander DeBose became a famous minister, ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Florida Conference, at his death, thousands of people; black and white came to pay respect to this great man.

The owner of the Brevard plantation was a member of the Methodist Church; a slave holding religious group, which encouraged its members who were slaveholders, to select men from the population who had demonstrated leadership ability and intellect to be selected for training as a minister to serve the slave population. Slavery, as an institution, had long discovered that the Christian religion was a valuable tool in helping to maintain order and discipline in the slave population. Contrary to the belief that slaves were not permitted to read, they were taught and encouraged to read the Bible.

The Bible is more effective when it is read and becomes part of a household. The Bible is also an excellent instrument for teaching the English language. The Bible with its slavery friendly verses encouraging slaves to obey their masters and to delay gratification to a time after death and a heavenly resting place was helpful to the institution.

Slaves were taught to believe that the earth belonged to the white man, but Heaven belonged to them, and many were contented to wait for Heaven. It was necessary to educate ministers to encourage these beliefs. Alexander was one of the men selected to carry out this mission. Record[2] suggests that Alexander became a leader of his group and had the responsibility of maintaining the spiritual sanity of his family and members of his own Plantations but also the other Plantations, which he was appointed to serve. This data is available due to the record keeping tradition of the Methodist Church with respect to training and ordination and appointment of ministers to specific groups.

The Methodist Florida conference, to which Alexander was assigned, contained his ordination papers, and his life was so extraordinary for that period and times permitting recorded history of his life to be available to his descendants. Alexander, (1832) like his father Jacob, (1789), became a preacher and teacher and a leader of his group of slaves on the Brevard Plantation. This was important because if the group were to survive what would be a long period of confinement, they would have to use special skills and strategies. The continent of Africa, where the cradle of civilization is located,[3] developed over a period of a hundred thousand years, the ability to survive.

This was done through the understanding of the relationship of man to his environment,[4] and the ability to adjust and share the environment with others. It was on that continent that the rules of social interactions for people throughout the world were formulated. Some of these rules came down as the Ten Commandments used by the members of the Abrahamic faiths such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They can be found in all of the religious writing around the world. The rule simply stated, is man should treat others they way he wants to be treated. It is also the basic foundation of the teachings of Jesus. Jacob knew these teachings, having learned them from his father. A man does not let his environment or the reactions of others determine who he is. Jacob, b.1789, taught his sons that the condition of servitude did not define who you are. If you give your will and your identity to your oppressor, he gains power over you.

The writings from the family archives,[5] suggested that Jacob had strict rules of conduct and behavior for his sons and the women they selected to be their wives.

Men were told that the treatment of the wife[6] determines the quality of children you will produce. The care of the children determined the quality of children they would produce. These religious values did not come from Christianity; writings suggest, that individuals who were held in permanent servitude did not trust the religion of their oppressors, although this religion was forced on them. The Africans brought the Hammurabi Code of behavior, which later became the Ten Commandments of the Abrahamic faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with them when they were brought to the New world. A significant number of Africans brought to the British North American Colonies, practiced Islam as the religion of the tribe and area. It was necessary to get the Muslims Africans to accept Christianity as the religion used in this part of the world. The owners of the Plantation, which were usually well-operated businesses, made the decision to select male individuals from within the different plantations, and trained them to be Christian and ministers.

The British North American Colonies, after a long fight to free the oppressed white slaves and bondsmen, became the United States of America, and the new country wanted a new experience. The freeing of the white slaves did not free the black slaves, and left the new country in a dilemma. Washington, the new president, who was himself a slave owner, and the new continental congress could not solve the problem of eliminating a much needed southern work force and at the same time be true to the values of their hearts and written in the founding documents. These men of vision and little courage took the lesser of two evils and made the decision to ban the importation of slaves for the continent of Africa as of 1808

In America, after 1808, the human traffic from Africa was considered illegal, and the new country decided how would it develop a system where men in bondage produced the next generation. Forcing mating is an impossible task given the requirements for reproduction. Some methods had to be devised to encourage the free mating of healthy individuals. The new country had to encourage the mating and marriage of the servant population if they wanted to bred a homegrown servant population. The new country was Christian and depended upon the rules of Christianity to manipulate slaves into accepting their position. Christianity requires marriage, and reading of the Bible, it was necessary to adjust the slave system to comply with these two requirements. Men had to read the Bible, men had to court women, marry women and produce children. To raise and care for the new home grown human capital, it was necessary to arrange living accommodations and family units in order to care for the children, and discourage able-bodied men from escaping to the northern regions of the country. In these homes, the spiritual rules of survival and humanity were instilled in the children and nurtured in the adults. Replicas of these slaves’ cabins can be seen in the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for the Study of African American culture and contributions. These exhibits provides an insight into the everyday life of a bondsman in America

The Africa slaves workday was from sunrise to sun set, but the time from sun set to sunrise remained in the hands of the servant population. Many slaves were able to sell their services and skills during their off time. It was in the one-room homes[7] that the spiritual formation of the family took place. It was here that the secret codes of survival were planted deep in the soul and heart of the members of this oppressed population, and it was these codes, which made it possible for millions of people, who gaining their freedom after hundreds of years old torment, torture and pain, walked out of the Egypt of their captivity into a world of freedom and challenge.

What is remarkable about this freed population is that they did not leave emotionally damaged. They did not leave full of bitterness and revenge. They did not take on the attitudes and behaviors of their oppressors. They did not have nervous breakdowns, or commit mass suicide during their periods of captivity and servitude. The difference between the Hebrews leaving Egypt thousands of years ago, and the African American leaving slavery over one hundred and fifty years ago, is that there was no Moses to lead them. Each individual had to be implanted in him, the seeds of self-leadership and spiritual development. What were these secret codes, and is it possible to transfer them to other people who are in conflict situation? How do you keep people from seeking revenge on people who abuse them, and as a result become abusers themselves?

This task was left to the women in the group. Women had the task of preparing children for their role in a restricted environment. The majorities of slaveholders were Christian,[8] and use the tools of Christianity to control the population. Women learning how this Christian religion could be used in many ways, some for good, and some for evil, paid careful attention to the rules of behavior expected from a servant population. They taught the children these rules between the hours of sun up to sunset, they however, provided the children with a second set of belief systems, which enable them to retain who they were spiritually, and in the eyes of God. Children were taught how to wear the mask[9] of servitude and adopt the behaviors of servitude. They were also taught that this attitude and behavior did not define who they were. The behaviors of the oppressor belonged to the oppressor, and did not enter into the soul source of their existence.[10] During the midnight hours, and the hours just before sunrise, the spirit of the individual was celebrated. It was the celebration and the nurturing of this spirit and true identity, which made it possible for former slaves to contribute and take part in this nation, which their bodies and their spirit was responsible for building.

Jacob, a tall man, blessed with the skills of language, returns to his one room cabin, greets his wife and inquires about the children. He had worked all day in the fields. He would rest a little, have his dinner, and then head out for his evening work. This time belonged to him, and he would hire himself out for a few coins, which he saved.

Jacob oldest son Alexander, would follow in his father’s footsteps as a worker and a saver. Alexander, born in 1832, would grow, and be selected by the white Christian church,[11] to go away for training to become a minister. The slave system had to train African men to become ministers. The owners found that slaves who practiced Christianity were less inclined to be violent, and also remained loyal to their wives and family. This reduced the possibility of men running away from their plantations. Alexander would use his spare time to preach at the various plantations, and he received compensation for this service. Alexander became an ordained deacon in the Methodist church. He was able to purchase the freedom of his family using his father’s savings and his own income. The question is, how does this relate to peacemaking in a postmodern world, and how do you prevent the oppressed from wanting to seek revenge on the oppressor, and continue the cycle of violence?[12] Jacob and Alexander taught that there was nothing done to either of them or their children. No man can make you a slave unless you accept it into your soul as your identity. When a person is violent he is doing nothing to you. He is acting out his own weakness and frustration. The question is who or what you want to be after your period of servitude is over, and it always ends, unless you take on the attitudes and behaviors of your oppressor and become him. I discussed how the strategies used by one family, prevented the legacy of revenge and anger from consuming their lives.

Researchers are still trying to determine how was it possible for millions of people to leave the institution of slavery without psychological scars. It is interesting when interviewing older members of the black population, and asking them what their grand parents told them about slavery, they answered,” they did not talk about it.” Men and women continued to marry and raise children. The children went to school and became professionals and successful members of society. It was not until the 1960’s that some scholars decided to look for problems[13] within the group, and encourage rebellion against past wrongs. Revenge is mine said the Lord, and the best revenge is success.[14]Perhaps the warring nations of the world could look to America and see how she handled her troubled past. When the colonist fought for their freedom from England, they took their victory, and moved on to start a new life. When the slaves were freed after the Civil war, they took their freedom, and started a new life. Those who turned around, and wanted more revenge, were turned to stone. When you adopt the attitude and behaviors of revenge, you too will be turned into a pillar of salt.

Six hundred thousand Africans came to the New World starting in 1619. Thousand marched into the institution of slavery and indentured servitude, millions walked out with their women and children and a significant amount of the wealth and resources of the country. America was not easy, but it was not Germany, we lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                     Bibliography

 

 

 

 

DeBose, Thomas, The Life and Times of Alexander DeBose, Gainesville Florida

 

Darwin, Charles, The Origin of the Species A Mentor Book, The American Library of World Literature.

 

Beversluis, John Henry. D. Ed. A Source Book for the Community of Religions. Chicago: Council for a Parliament for the World Religions, 1993

 

Interviews with living descendents of Alexander and Jacob DeBose, Sharing the family achieves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] DeBose,Thomas, The Life and Times of Rev. Alexander DeBose, written 1907, Gainesville Florida

[2] ibid

[3] Information obtained from the Museum of Natural History in the City of New York, Man in Africa Hall.

[4] Darwin, Charles, The Origin of the Species, By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, A Mentor Book, New American Library of World Literature.

[5] DeBose, Thomas, The Life and Times of Alexander DeBose, by his Son, Gainesville Florida

[6] Although it has been suggested that Africans were not permitted to marry, this was not true in the colonies. The colonies encouraged their slaves to read the bible; this was done in order to have control over the population. Marriages were allowed for religious reasons. After 1808, the states had to breed their own population, due to a law not allowing the importation of slaves from Africa. It was easier for mothers to care for their children. Men who became husbands tended not to leave the plantations without their families.

[7] The Schumburg Museum for the Study of African American History, located at 135th Street in New York City, contains records and exhibits of these family homes provided to the slaves.

[8] Slaveholders had to justify to their denominations headquarters, how they could make slaves out of Christians. They found a way. Quakers did not permit the holding of slaves, and were instrumental in conducting underground railroads designed to help run away slaves safely into the north. The Methodist church trained slaves how to be ministers, and even ordained some. These records are still on file.

[9] Children were taught how to appear submissive and not get into trouble. Adult slaves also used the mask of submission, when in the presence of white adults. Special female slaves taught a second body of information to the children relating to their true identity.

[10] Women could nurse a black child and a white child at the same time, and give each the love of God within them. This resulted in a close bond between many southerners, which may be difficult to understand. Black women called mammies raised white children, and often provided the love they needed to grow into healthy individuals.

[11] The Methodist church ordained Alexander DeBose. When he died over 1900 people, both black and white, attended his funeral.

[12] Most of the literature on non-violence comes out of India during the time that India was the possession of Great Britain. I have not read any reference to non-violence coming out of Germany and the Jews who experienced a different type of behavior from the Nazis. This would suggest that the countries doing the oppression might have something to do with the response of the people. India may not have been happy, but her population grew under Great Britain. The colonies also grew. The slave population in the British North American colonies grew from a few hundred thousand, to several million. In Germany, six million Jews were wiped from the face of the earth. I do not know how to respond to such violence.

[13] Sociology is often the study of deviant behaviors in selected groups. Many colleges and universities focus on negative quality in minority populations rather than positive ones.

[14] Today, the descendents of black slaves, white slaves, black indentured servants, white indentured servants, convicts and settlers, have gone through the transformation that is part of the American process, they live together and work together, and the about the business of making the country and example of God’s kingdom on earth. America turns trash into gold.

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