Monday, September 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - Slavery in Bovina

There were slaves throughout the United States during the colonial era and after independence, but northern states began to abolish slavery in the early 19th century.  New York abolished it in 1827, but before then, did Bovina have any slaves?  From what I can find, Bovina appears to have had one or two slaves.  In the 1820 census, there was one slave owned by Alexander Johnson (or Johnston).  Murray's Centennial History of Delaware County claims that when slavery was abolished, there were two slaves in Bovina - Johnson's and one slave owned by John Erkson.  The census doesn't show this, however.  And Murray's book has the wrong year for abolition of slavery.  Before Bovina's creation but after its settlement, there could have been some other slave owners, but there appears to be no record of these slave holders.

Bovina was generally but not unanimously anti-slavery during the Civil War. Near the end of the war, the Bovina United Presbyterian Church took issue with one of its members for opposing the church's stand against slavery.  The Presbyterian Church in the USA in the 1840s passed a resolution against slavery:  "The system of slavery, as it exists in these United States, viewed either in the laws of the several States which sanction it, or in its actual operation and results in society, is intrinsically an unrighteous and oppressive system, and is opposed to the prescriptions of the law of God, to the spirit and precepts of the Gospel, and to the best interests of humanity."  The church over the years continued to reaffirm its opposition to slavery.

In November 1864, word had been received that "Mrs Jane Maynard had been willfully opposing the principles of her solemn profession by uttering disloyal and unchristian sentiments."  She felt that the article in the church's testimony on slavery was not in accordance with Scripture. Elder Thomas Miller was appointed to speak with her on this issue, which he did in late December or early January.  During the conversation, Miller solicited money for missionary purposes. Mrs. Maynard responded that she had no money for such purpose but she did have for the southern people "whom we were persecuting..." She also cited the minister for injecting politics into his sermons.  She did not feel she could stay a member while being criticized for her political opinions. Her membership was suspended but as the year progressed, passions cooled.  Mrs. Maynard admitted that she said some things under excitement that she should not have said.  And though she still felt the church's stand on slavery was wrong, she wished to be restored to membership.  She was restored in October 1865. 

One of the challenges in researching this story was trying to figure out which Jane Maynard this was.  There are two candidates: Jane Falconer Maynard, married to Isaac Maynard and Jane McDonald Maynard, married to Elisha Maynard.  There was only one Jane Maynard who was a member during this time and it appears to have been Mrs. Elisha Maynard.  Jane McDonald was born in 1825 and married Elisha Maynard in 1852.  She was widowed in 1907 and died in 1916.

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