The Hanging of Reverend White


In 1838, Samuel Audrain emancipated his slave, Absalom White, making him a Free Black, as listed on the 1850 census. He’d purchased the old slave who had been born in Virginia, from Pierre Chouteau years before, and brought him to Missouri, without his wife and children. He didn’t free all of his slaves, only Absalom…

Know all men that I Samuel W. Audrain Jr. In consideration for the fidelity of my negro slave named Absalom White do hereby liberate emancipate and forever set free

The emancipation of Absalom White in 1838

In 1850, Absalom was living in the city of St. Charles, a free black man, where he had bought property which was in Lot 5 of Nathan Boone’s survey, today’s 554 Madison Street. He’s to be found in the 1850 census, alone, 72 years old, and on the property that he had bought and built a house. In 1848 Absalom purchased a little four-year-old girl, his daughter who was named Emily. She cost Absalom $150 and was purchased from David Wells, a friend and neighbor of Samuel Audrain in Saint Paul, further west in St. Charles County. In April of 1851, Absalom would write his will…

I give and bequeath unto my daughter Emily now aged about five years and to her heirs and assignees, my house and lot in which I now residemy daughter who belongs to me, after my death, I hereby liberate and set free…shall be placed with her Aunt Katy Ruland of St. Louis and educated by Susan Cummins ….

Will of Absolom White, St. Charles County Circuit Court Records, also Ancestry St.Charles Wills Vol. 3-5

In April of 1854 Absalom added a codicil to his will and assigned the care of his then 10-year-old daughter Emily to be by Marshall D. Fielding of St. Charles, and Darius Heald who lived near the recently founded village on the North Missouri Railroad named O’Fallon. Leaving instructions on how she is to be raised and taught to read the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Absalom can read and write. He’s a preacher man. At that time, what would later become the African Methodist Episcopal church had not been organized yet in St. Charles County. He was recognized as a man of the Gospel simply by his people.

Mr. White, a minister of the Gospel, was observed by a couple of secession spies talking with two negroes, on the road within five miles of St. Charles county, Missouri. They rushed up and seized him, bound him hand and foot; then taking him to an old stump of a tree, they produced a rope with a slip knot on it, and after tying one end of it to the tree, placed a barrel under Mr. White’s feet, and slipped the noose over his head. Mr. White here confessed that he had tried to get the negroes to run away. After he had said a prayer, the barrel was a kicked from under him, and he was left dangling between heaven and earth. …Mr. White was…always regarded by the people in the neighborhood as an abolitionist and had often been warned to leave…

Absalom’s St. Charles funeral in May of 1854 was in the grand French Creole style, with a large procession with carriages. By 1860, Emily is a servant in Erastus Porter’s home in St. Charles, where there are three enslaved, a fifty year old mulatto male, a 17 year old female who has just had a baby born in January. Her property is in limbo as well, and despite the money owed to his estate and her, the property is often in jeopardy. Taxes get behind, even though money is owed to the estate. But there is ample funds to build a church!

First African Methodist Episcopal Church built on 561 Madison Street in St. Charles, Missouri

With the end of the Civil War comes new legislation, allowing former slaves to marry those that have lived as husband and wife, and Emily marries George Brown. She and George are married on April 6,1865, immediately after that law is enacted. In 1870, she and George have made their home of her father, raising their young family. They have five children, Cora born in 1862, David born in 1865, Absalom named for her father who was born 1866, Martha had come along in 1868, and little Julia is the youngest and born in 1870.

House built by Absalom White at 554 Main Street in Saint Charles, Missouri

The Reverend Absalom White was a preacher man. When he passed there were ample funds for building the first A.M.E. Church, at 561 Madison Street, next to his home in St. Charles. Soon after a new and larger church would be built nearby on Washington Street, named St. John A.M.E. Church, also known as “The friendliest Church in Town”.

St. John A.M.E. Church at 547 Washington Street in Saint Charles, Missouri
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