History of Slavery in St. LouisSlavery has a long history in Native American cultures. Indians generally enslaved the women and children of another tribal people taken captive during warfare. Those who were lucky not to be killed by slow torture became slaves. The European colonists took advantage of this tradition. They bartered for slaves obtained with furs and trinkets. While some were used for labor, there was a shortage of European women on the frontier. The colonists frequently took a female Indian slave as a concubine and sometimes even as a wife. This was especially popular among the French in this territory (Slavery in St. Louis by Scott K. Williams).
Persons of African descent were members of the party that accompanied Pierre de Laclede Liguest when in 1764 he founded the trading post and village that became St. Louis. Free blacks and slaves resided along with other early settlers in the French village (The African-American Heritage of St. Louis: A Guide).
When the Missouri territory went from French to Spanish rule in 1766, the Spanish Governor issued a decree that all Indian slaves were to be set free when their owners were deceased. All babies born of Indian slaves were free at birth. In the 1770 Spanish census of St. Louis, there were 66 Indian slaves being held, mostly women and children. Spanish law was basically ignored outside the limits of St. Louis and thus the former patterns of Indian slaves continued unabated.
Among the St. Louis residents who owned Indian slaves, Marie Therese Bourgeois Chouteau owned two adolescent slave girls and her “unofficial” husband, Pierre Laclede claimed six Indian slaves. So it was a common pattern among the French of St. Louis.
The first black slaves were brought to the area by Philippe Renault in 1719. These slaves, numbering 500, came from the French colony of Haiti. Both these slaves and their masters spoke French and were, at least, nominal Catholics. Renault’s slaves worked in the lead mines west of St. Genevieve. A few of these slaves working as boatman came upriver to St. Louis after it was founded in 1764.
Clamorgan Alley in the Laclede’s Landing section of the city is named after Jacques Clamorgan, part of the 19th century “colored aristocracy” of St. Louis. Jacques Clamorgan, a West Indian native, arrived in St. Louis in 1780. The fur-trader sired four children by mulatto slave women. The French community accepted the declared offspring of such unions, and rights of inheritance were protected. The Clamorgans owned large businesses and tenements. And there were other well-to-do freed blacks in early St. Louis (The African American Heritage of St. Louis: A Guide).
As Bill C. Winter observes in his book, (The Civil War in St. Louis: A Guided Tour), while the number of slaves grew in Missouri between 1820 and 1860, slave ownership wasn’t nearly as prevalent here as in the Confederate States. Only 1 in 8 families had slaves, and only 3% of Missouri’s slave population lived in St. Louis.
As late as 1818, fourteen years after Missouri became part of the United States, virtually all of the slaves in St. Louis spoke French. As for the Whites, approximately 2/3 of the population at this time spoke French as the predominant language. French continued to be commonly spoken by the older generation until the 1850’s. But more Anglo Americans and European immigrants began arriving in St. Louis, and the language gradually changed to English (Slavery in St. Louis).
What made slavery more important in St. Louis wasn’t the number of slaves living here, but the slave market that was active here and the shipping of slaves from Missouri to the Deep South. Many free Blacks in Missouri lived in St. Louis. The problem of keeping the institution of slavery viable in St. Louis proved more challenging because here, freed blacks and slaves walked the same streets, met the same people, and interacted. This mingling of slave and free, and the fact that Missouri was surrounded to the East, North and West by free states, challenged the very foundation of the institution of slavery.
The Dred Scott case, a St. Louis slave suing for his freedom in 1857, proved disastrous for free blacks and slaves across the country. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Federal government did not recognize the citizenship of black people. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated that there was a “perpetual and impassible barrier” between whites and blacks regarding Federal law. They had no rights under the Constitution. So even if a free black was a citizen of one State, he had no standing in Federal court. This decision created an escalation in North-South hostilities prior to the Civil War.
Slave auctions occurred at the steps of the old courthouse in St. Louis at noon. The public couldn’t help seeing them. The slave traders generally stayed at the Planters Hotel. Second Baptist Church was located across the street from the courthouse.
Missouri in effect had two governments during the Civil War, one Confederate under Governor Claiborne F. Jackson and the other Union under Governor Hamilton Gamble. The constitutionally elected government was driven into exile by Federal forces. This Missouri government in exile joined the Confederacy. The pro-Union government under Gov. Gamble was, ironically, staunchly pro-slavery. For this reason, most Missouri slave owners were at least nominally pro-Union in sentiment. They formed a strained alliance with anti-slavery citizens.
There were many slave catchers that came into Missouri looking for runaway slaves. When caught, the slaves were put in Missouri jails. During the Civil War, both black and white refugees flocked to St. Louis. The congregation of thousands of slaves at the St. Louis waterfront became known as “Camp Ethiopia”. The vacant Missouri Hotel at Main and Morgan Streets was acquired as temporary quarters for a thousand refugees. Another building nearby was turned into a hospital. A school was opened for the children in a neighboring church. The adult slaves were put to work during the day repairing and building up the city’s fortifications. Eventually, Camp Ethiopia was shut down and the black refugees were moved to Benton Barracks. Smallpox claimed many lives.
Over 8,300 Missouri blacks served as soldiers in the Union Army, and the Federal government often paid loyal slave owners $300 for each slave that enlisted.
Educated Clergy of Second Baptist Church
From the beginning, Second Baptist had the distinction of calling only seminary-trained pastors. This was no doubt due to the influence of John Mason Peck and his bias toward trained clergy. When Peck arrived, he found that Baptists in Illinois and rural Missouri included many who were staunchly opposed to educated clergy. Served by untrained pastors, they were threatened by the arrival of educated clergy from the East, whom John Mason Peck represented. Starting in the Fall of 1858 with Galusha Anderson, the church called pastors who not only were prominent in the city but also nationally known.
Dr. Galusha Anderson was a graduate of Rochester Theological Seminary and was the first person to have an earned doctorate from that school. He came to St. Louis at 26 years of age with a wife and infant son in September of 1858. Within a few months, another son was born. But tragedy was soon to strike this young pastor’s family. On January 1 and 3, 1859, both little boys died. On March 8 and 10, 1860, his wife and another infant son died. Within 18 months of arriving in St. Louis, Dr. Anderson had lost his wife and three young sons. He was alone in St. Louis.
The Civil War and St. Louis as a Border City
When the Civil War broke out, St. Louis was a unique border city, even as Missouri was a unique border state. Though Missouri was brought into the Union through the “Missouri Compromise” as a slave state, the truth is that it was a divided State and even more so, St. Louis was a divided city with both confederate and union sympathies. No other city across the so-called Mason-Dixon line was as divided as St. Louis, the other cities either being decidedly in the Union or Confederate camp.
Anderson wrote, “pro-slavery sentiment largely prevailed (in St. Louis). Those who cherished it were often intense and bitter, and at that time socially controlled the entire city. But on the other hand the leading businessmen of the city were quietly, conservatively, yet positively opposed to slavery. Many of them had come from New England and the Middle States and believed slavery to be a great moral wrong; but those from the North and South alike saw that slavery was a drag upon the commercial interests of the city and all were hoping that in some way the incubus might be lifted off from it. For St. Louis, the commercial capital of Missouri, much of its trade was with southern cities. In 1860, more than 4,000 steamers with a capacity of 1,120,039 tons loaded and unloaded at its wharves. To obstruct the Father of Waters at the mouth of the Ohio, or to divide it by secession, was a matter of life and death to all the business interests of St. Louis.”
Citizens of both sentiments lived side by side, block after block, and they dared not share publicly their loyalties. The American flag was not displayed in the city nor patriotic songs sung for fear it would provoke a backlash from those sympathetic to the Confederacy.
Galusha Anderson said: “The apprehensiveness and extreme sensitiveness of pro-slavery Missouri manifested itself in the winter of 1859-1860, through its Legislature. That body of law-makers passed a bill by an overwhelming majority, expelling from the State all free negroes. There were more than a thousand of that class in St. Louis, and a large majority of these were females, doing domestic service in the best families in the city. The excitement caused by this short-sighted action of the legislature was intense. The bill enacted was a declaration in the form of law, that the presence of free negroes was a menace to slavery…
“There was a negro pastor in the city by the name of Richard Anderson. When a boy he was a slave and had been brought to Missouri from Virginia. When he was 12 years old, his master, Mr. Bates, had given him his freedom. He now began to do odd jobs about the city…While doing his work, he learned to read…With his ability to read came broader intelligence. He industriously thumbed and mastered good books. The Bible was constantly read by him and he became a Christian. He was called to be a preacher and pastor. He was a man of commanding presence, a descendant of an African chief…He preached well. His manner was quiet, suggesting reserved power; his thought was orderly and clear. He had great power over his audience…He presided over a church of a thousand members. Fully half of them were free. The bill for the expulsion of free negroes in the State fell with greater severity upon him than upon any other man in St. Louis. I met him expecting that he would be greatly agitated and cast down; but was surprised to find him absolutely unruffled. I ventured to ask him if he had heard of the recent legislation pertaining to free negroes. He quietly replied that he had and then added with emphasis, ‘That bill will never become a law.’ With mingled curiosity and surprise I asked, ‘How do you know that?’ Lifting his hand and pointing upward toward heaven, and turning his eyes thitherward he replied, ‘I know because I have asked up there.’… Time soon showed that this black man with his great, calm soul and unswerving faith was right. Although Governor Stewart …believed slavery to be right, “he had been brought up in eastern New York. The doctrine that all men, irrespective of color, have an inalienable right to liberty had been breathed in with the air of his native hills, and had become part and parcel of his life-blood. As he looked at the infamous bill, passed almost unanimously, the teaching received in boyhood asserted itself. It was stronger than his pro-slavery Bourbonism, stronger than party ties…” Instead of vetoing the bill, he pocketed it and the bill never became law.
Anderson wrote, “Throughout the Union the political conflict was fierce, but in Missouri, and its great commercial city, St. Louis, it was unusually hot and acrimonious. African slavery was the distracting problem. None attempted to disguise it. Men on every hand spoke plainly and boldly. Most of the people of the slave states, and the citizens of Missouri among the rest, believe with all their hearts that if the Republican party should be successful at the polls, henceforth slavery would probably be excluded from the territories (to the West and north of Missouri) and at no distant day, would become extinct even in the states…They regarded (Abraham Lincoln) as the embodiment of all their apprehended woes, and so they poured out on him without stint their bitterest execrations.”
Galusha Anderson said, “To me it has always been a genuine joy that it fell to my lot to cast one of those ballots (for Lincoln). They were ballots of freedom and progress.”
The city had a number of clandestine, hostile and armed camps, secretly formed, but ready to spring into action. “While these things were being done under cover, the people of the city carefully refrained from all outward manifestations of patriotism. The fire burned in the bones of Union men, but for prudential reasons they did not permit it to flame forth. They determined if possible to avoid conflict and bloodshed within our (city) gates. No preacher spoke for the Republic. No congregation sang, ‘My country ‘tis of thee.’ No band played, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ Outside of the Arsenal there was but one United States flag hung out in all the city and that floated over the main entrance of a dry-goods store…And this flagless condition of the city continued till May of 1861…
When South Carolina succeeded from the Union in 1860, “Unionism and secessionism in our streets, homes, places of business and social gatherings met face to face. An awful uncertainty pervaded our minds. Our political destiny trembled in the balance. Which way the scale would turn no one knew. Moreover the same events awakened in the city opposite and antagonistic emotions. One party was filled with apprehension and sadness and the other was filled with hope and joy. Which party was most numerous in those days that immediately preceded the war was a matter of uncertainty. Upon which side our neighbors, our partners in business, and often those of our own households would array themselves it was difficult to determine. Nor could we forget that the announcement of the secession of a State might lead to bloody conflict in our streets. Under such peculiar circumstances the proposed, or actual secession of States stirred profoundly our whole city. The excitement was not noisy, it was too deep for that. Men met, and transacted business, without uttering a word concerning the country. Many of the most thoughtful seemed to hold their breath and listen to the beating of their hearts.
It had been the custom in St Louis that when people died, the slaves they owned were either sold at market value, or, if necessary, put in jail until the following New Year’s Day when they were auctioned on the granite stairs of the Courthouse. “So, on the first day of January, 1861, a slave auctioneer appeared with seven colored ‘slaves’…just led out by him from the jail where, some of them, for more than a year, without having been charged with any misdemeanor or crime, had been (held.) The auctioneer placed these cowering slaves on the pedestal of one of the massive pillars of the Court-house. Crowning the cupola of this building, dedicated to the righteous interpretation and execution of the law was a statue of Justice, with eyes blindfolded, holding in her hand a pair of scales, the symbol of impartial equity. This auction of slaves had been extensively advertised and about 2,000 young men had secretly banded themselves together to stop the sale, and if possible, put an end to this annual disgrace. The auctioneer on his arrival at the Court-house found this crowd of freeman in a dense mass waiting for him. The sight of bondmen about to be offered for sale and that too under the floating folds of their national flag, crimsoned their cheeks with shame and made their harts hot within them. Yet they scarcely uttered a word as they stood watching the auctioneer…At last he was ready and cried out, ‘What do you want for this able-bodied boy? There’s not a blemish on him.’ Then the indignant, determined crowd in response cried out, at the top of their lungs, ‘Three dollars, Three dollars,’ and without a break kept up the cry for twenty minutes or more. The auctioneer yelled to make himself heard above that deafening din of voices, but it was all in vain. At last, however, the cry of the crowd died away. Was it simply a good-natured joke only carried a little too far? The auctioneer seemed to be in doubt how to take that vociferating throng. ‘Now’, he said in a bantering tone, ‘gentleman, don’t make fools of yourselves; how much will you bid for this boy?’ Then, for many minutes, they shouted, ‘Four dollars, Four dollars.’…To the joy of that crowd of young men the auctioneer was at last in a rage. It had dawned upon him that this was no joke; that the crowd before him were not shouting for fun on this annual holiday but were in dead earnest.” The battle went on, back and forth between the hostile crowd and the auctioneer eventually reaching eight dollars, “and at the end of two hours of exasperating and futile effort, the defeated auctioneer led his ebony charges back into jail. Through the force of public opinion freedom had triumphed. No public auction of slaves was ever again attempted in St. Louis.”
Slavery and Second Baptist Church
Dr. Anderson was staunchly pro-Union and an Abolitionist. He abhorred the slave auctions. Anderson wrote, “When in my pulpit, facing my congregation, I also faced, only half a square away, a hideous slave-pen. It was kept by Mr. Lynch, an ominous name. I sometimes saw men and women, handcuffed and chained together, in a long two-by-two column, drive in there under the crack of a driver’s whip, as though they were so many colts or calves. Had they committed any crime? Oh, no, they had been bought, in different parts of the State, by speculators, and were kept in the pen to be sold to the good people of St. Louis and of the surrounding towns and country districts; and those not thus disposed of were bought by slave-dealers for the New Orleans market.”
Anderson: “One of the deacons of my church was a slaveholder. He was a Virginian by birth. His slaves came to him by inheritance. In him, linked with sterling ability were rare modesty and unusual benevolence. Giving seemed to be a luxury to him. He contributed to every good cause to the extent of his ability and often beyond what could have been reasonably required of him. The suggestion of a smile was always on his lips. It was a part of the man; the outward expression of the sunshine of his soul. And yet this noble, tender-hearted man held his fellow men in bondage.
About two months after I became his pastor, one evening in response to his cordial invitation, I dined with him. After the cheerful meal was over, he took me aside into a private room and to my astonishment and delight said, ‘If you ever wish to say anything in the pulpit against slavery you need not hesitate on my account; there are two things that I abominate: one is selling liquor and the other is selling niggers.’ Yes, he said, ‘niggers'; they all did. He then told me that he had inherited his slaves and felt under solemn obligation to care for them. He also declared that they were all manumitted, and that their manumission papers were in a certain drawer in a bureau, which he pointed out to me; so if he should die, they would all be free. But he said, ‘I do not wish them to know this. They are all young and I am trying to train them, so that when they know that they are free and must shift for themselves, they will be able to earn their own living. They are well cared for; for the present I am the nigger of this household.’ And so he was. Marshal Brotherton served everybody, even his own slaves.
“The sexton of Second Baptist Church was a colored man. Everybody called him George. One day he said to me, ‘I am the slave of Marse Brotherton. If he should die, I’se afraid I’ll be sold down souf. Won’t you speak to him about it and axe him to make me free?’ I told him that I would and I soon found my opportunity to do so. My good deacon then told me the story of George. A few years before, George belonged to a man who lived in the county of St. Louis, outside the city. His master died. When settling up his estate the executors put George in the county jail for safe-keeping, intending to sell him to New Orleans slave-traders. Mr Brotherton was at that time sheriff of the county. Visiting the jail one day, George entreated him to buy him and keep him from being carried down to the New Orleans slave market, which all slaves instinctively dreaded. Mr. Brotherton did not need a servant, but his heart was so touched with pity for him that he bought him. He at once opened an account of which the slave knew nothing, charging George a fair price for keeping and crediting him with the earnings. In a little while the slave had paid for himself. His manumission papers were then made out. All this was concealed from George. He was a freeman, but did not know it. Mr. Brotherton had set him up in the wood and coal business, was teaching him how to buy and sell and keep his account books, so that he could intelligently care for himself. Having heard this interesting and touching story of my sexton and Christian brother—for George was a true believer in Christ and an exemplary member of the church—I asked Mr. Brotherton if in his judgment it would be well for me to tell him that he was a freeman in order to relieve him of anxiety. For a moment that bewitching smile played upon the deacon’s lips and then he said, ‘Yes, you may tell him if you want to.’
The next day I met George at the church. It was a great joy to me to tell a man who thought that he was a slave that instead he was a freeman. And my poor pen cannot depict either his happiness or mine, as I told him that simple story of his master’s kindness and benevolence of which he had been the unconscious recipient. He listened at first amazed; then joy beamed from those large tear-filled eyes. He seemed at once to be transformed. In broken utterances he expressed his gratitude to his master and to me. There was no happier soul on earth than he just then. He had come to his duties that day supposing that he was a slave; he did those duties with the new-born sense that he was free. No two states of mind could be in sharper contrast. To him old things in a moment passed away and all things became new.”
Sometime later Dr. Anderson was invited to another person’s home, who attended Second Baptist Church but was not a member, a Mississippian by birth, a banker and a slave owner. He invited his pastor to dinner to convince him of the virtues of slavery. He bragged about his two slaves, Wash and Mammy. He said, “Mammy has nursed these daughters of ours and loves them as though they were her own children and they love her. Why, sir, she is so attached to her home and to us all that nothing could tempt her to leave us.” He said the same thing about Wash, how devoted he was to his family and how happy and content he was in the household. Once the war commenced, the first slave in St. Louis to run away was Wash. And about two weeks later, Mammy made a rope of her bed-clothes, fastened one end of it to her bedstead, and threw it out the window and climbed down to her freedom.
The Prophetic Pulpit
Pastors in St. Louis avoided referring to the political situation from their pulpits until one Sunday the pastor of Central Presbyterian Church broke the silence and preached a strong secessionist sermon. He preached his sermon, printed it and distributed it around St. Louis. His view represented the majority of the churches and pastors of St. Louis, favoring secession from the Union, according to Anderson.
Dr. Anderson wrote, “I was full of unrest because I had not spoken out concerning the duties that we all sacredly owed to the country. At the Sunday morning service I usually prayed for the President of the United States. So long as President Buchanan was in office this appeared to be agreeable to all; but no sooner was Mr. Lincoln inaugurated than some began to object to this part of my prayer…Among themselves, the congregation hotly debated it. But I had heard of the strenuous objection urged against my petition (prayer) for our President…Something must be done, so at least, thought the opposition forces. They got together and requested that William M. McPherson, on their behalf, talk the matter over with me…When we met, Mr. McPherson said, ‘A considerable number of the church and congregation have sent to you through me an earnest petition that in the future you should forego praying publicly for the President.’…
I replied, ‘Such prayer is no new thing in my pulpit ministrations. I prayed for President Buchanan and no one objected to that.’ ‘Ah,’ he answered, ‘that is just the sore point; they think praying for Lincoln is partisan, that it is praying against the South.’ I responded, ‘If Lincoln is as bad as they say he is, I am sure that both I and they ought to pray for him; he needs our prayers…”
Dr. Anderson knew he must speak out. On April 21, 1861, just a year after he lost his wife and all three of his sons, he announced as the Scripture Romans 13 in which Paul teaches the duty of obedience to the established government. Anderson said such a hush fell over the congregation that at pauses between sentences, he could hear the flicker of the gas lights. It was the first sermon preached in St. Louis in defense of the Union.
“For the hymn I gave out ‘My Country Tis of Thee.’ I am quite sure that it had not been sung for many months in St. Louis; at all events, as a congregation, we had refrained from singing it lest somebody might be offended. My secession friends did not even deign to open their hymnbooks, but stood dumb while we sang…A part of a congregation of loyal Methodists on the way home from their evening service, had crowded into the vestibule, and listened to the close of my discourse; lingering there, they sang the national anthem as only Methodists can. Also a band of loyal Unitarians going along Locust Street by the church just as we began to sing, stood on the sidewalk, under the open window and sang with fervor.”
As it turned out, Dr. Anderson remarried the week after his stirring sermon, and he and his new wife took a week’s trip to Cincinnati. His sermon had aroused great anger among the Southern sympathizers around the city. The church had been stormed and a deacon shot. At the evening service, a turbulent crowd gathered at Sixth and Locust Streets, in front and by the side of Second Baptist Church. A brick was thrown through the window during the Sunday service shattering the window but hurting no one. When the crowd learned that Dr. Anderson was away, they dispersed angrily.
Anderson said, “This menacing event greatly disturbed the officers of (Second Baptist) church. Knowing the train on which we were returning to St. Louis, several of them came to greet us and tell us of the mob. Fearing it might gather again, they advised him to return to Cincinnati. Instead, Anderson took a copy of his sermon to the Missouri Republican and requested its publication that he might be quoted correctly, and it was also printed in Moore’s Rebellion Record. Many members of the congregation with Southern sympathies did not return to the church the next Sunday when Galusha and his new bride returned from their honeymoon.
Fortunately, Galusha had the support of his new wife. She said, “I just couldn’t stand to see people being sold like cattle and I took the long way around the slave market to avoid it.”
The editor of another newspaper in St. Louis printed the headline, “The Devil Preaches at Sixth and Locust” and had it delivered to Dr. Anderson’s home on a Sunday morning to be sure he saw it. Galusha Anderson was named as one of the five men who kept Missouri in the Union and was one of the ten on the South’s Most Wanted List to be taken captive.
Ironically, the pastor of Central Presbyterian Church who had preached the secessionist sermon was also named Anderson and mistaking him for our pastor as he was walking along the street one day, an angry group of Southern sympathizers who assumed this Rev. Anderson was Galusha, threw a brick at him, knocking him unconscious.
On May 22, a member of a secessionist group within Second Baptist Church offered a resolution of condemnation of the sermon stating that it should not have been given, that it would cause disruption of the church as “it was exceedingly inopportune and calculated to do no good.” The resolution was defeated by a vote of 65-19. Those with Confederate sympathies soon left Second Baptist Church as the church then came to be identified with the Union. Union soldiers were among those who began filling the pews. This change of membership was to have a huge impact upon the future of Second Baptist Church.
The impact upon Second Baptist Church, as well as upon the city of St. Louis, was irreversible. Neola Koechig, in her history of our church, states it this way, “Starting in the fall of 1858, (with the call of Galusha Anderson as pastor) and extending more than 60 years, the church had the leadership of ministers who brought it into prominence, not only in the city, but nationally. It grew in membership and influence. The seeds of character for the church we know today grew and became firmly implanted. Drs. Galusha Anderson, Aaron H. Brulingham, Williard W. Boyd and William Coleman Bitting were intellectuals and dynamic leaders. We have them and those earlier congregations to thank for opening the doors to religious liberty—Open Membership, Open Communion—and for planting our feet firmly as American Baptists.”
This path which they set, beginning in 1858, is yet another anniversary of our church, our 150th year as a progressive church, known for defending our Baptist liberties, known for tolerance and diversity, known for prophetically speaking out. That sermon preached by Dr. Galusha Anderson from our pulpit on April 21, 1861 was a decided turning point on a journey from which we have never turned back.
Primary Source: A Border City during the Civil War, Galusha Anderson, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1908
The Civil War in St. Louis, A Guided Tour, William C. Winter, St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1994