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Fisher's River
(North Carolina)
Scenes and Characters (1859)


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I must not entirely omit the negroes, as some of them were men of renown.  I have made honorable mention of "Gingy-cake Josh Easley."  What the people would have done for "gingy-cakes" at their musters and public gatherings I can not tell, had it not been for clever Josh.  Josh was respected by all, white and black.  His master moved to Missouri, and there Josh died.  He used to keep us all alive singing corn songs at "corn-shuckings."

I could mention many good and clever negroes, but will only pay my respects to Rev. Charles Gentry.  Charles was a Baptist preacher, and belonged to "Shelt Gentry."  His master and mistress were Baptists, and Charles was quite a privileged character.  Next to Rev. Pleasant Cocker, Charles stood highest in their estimation.  He was not without "gifts," nor was he destitute of a proper amount of vanity.  As to grammar, if he ever heard of it, he had no use for it, not he.  His theology was not always sound, yet a good deal of it was quite original, as the two extracts from his sermons which I shall give the reader will abundantly prove.  Rev. Charles had a penchant for controversy, and was often running up against established views and upsetting them by the force of his cataract voice and rail-mauling gestures, if not by argument.

Naturalists have for ages been trying to account for the different forms and complexions of men.  Some will have them to be of different races, not all descended from the same pair, Adam and Eve.  Others contend that all have descended from the same pair, but climate and accidental causes have made the difference;  hence Professor A and Professor B have their diverse theories and their disciples and admirers.  When men leave the plain teachings of the Bible and go into vague speculations, one man's hypothesis is nearly as good as another's.


I will now give my readers a new theory from the lips (for negroes do not write) of the Rev. Charles Gentry, and commend it to the consideration of Professor Agassiz and Dr. Nott.  The Rev. Charles Gentry was "explanifying" to his "bredderin ob color" how the first white man came into existence.  He held forth on this wise:

"Beloved bredderin, de white folks ar clean out of it when dey 'firm dat de fust man was a white man.  I'm not a-gwine to hab any sich doctering.  De fact is, Adam, Cain, Abel, Seth, was all ob 'um black as jet.  Now you 'quire how de white man cum.  Why, dis a-way.  Cain he kill his brudder Abel wid a great big club --- he walkin'-stick --- and God he cum to Cain, and say, 'Cain!  where is dy brudder Abel?'  Cain he pout out de lip, and say, 'I don't know;  what ye axin' me fur?  I ain't my brudder Abel's keeper.'  De Lord he gits in airnest, and stomps on de ground, and say, 'Cain!  you Cain!  whar is dy brudder Abel?  I say, Cain!  whar is dy brudder?'  Cain turn white as bleach cambric in de face, and de whole race ob Cain dey bin white ebber since.  De mark de Lord put on de face ob Cain was a white mark.  He druv him inter de land ob Nod, and all de white folks hab cum frum de land ob Nod, jis' as you've hearn."


Some divines, to pacify infidels and skeptics, and make, as they suppose, the Bible more acceptable to them, have a knack of explaining the miraculous truths of the Bible on natural principles and according to the teaching of human wisdom, and their preaching and expositions are, to say the least of it, semi-infidelic.  Rev. Charles Gentry had heard one of those preachers somewhere who explained all miracles according to natural sequences.  Charles had any amount of ambition, and wished to show his "larnin'" in the same way.  Accordingly, at his next appointment, he delivered a learned dissertation on Jonah and the whale.  He held his audience "spellbound" for some time, but I can only give the narrative part of the able discourse.  It was as follows:

"Dearly beloved brudderin, dar is much said about dis Jonah and de whale business;  a heap a-spoutin' about it, tryin' to outspout de whale hisself;  but one half on 'um don't know what dey talkin' 'bout;  dis chile does, howsomeber, 'bout de whole matter.  Den listen, dat ye may hear.  Well, Jonah he tries to git away from de Lord, and he gits in a ship --- a big un, too --- and tinks dat is de place fur him;  but he miss him fur as ef he'd a burnt he shirt.  Dar Jonah he lie snug in de ship as a flea under a nigger's shirt collar.  But, bless you, brudderin!  de Lord he raise a mighty whirlygust, and de ship he rock to and fro like a drunkard man.  De men dey guess what was de matter, and dey cum and take Jonah by de nap o' de neck and de hind part o' de britches, and swing him backuds and foruds;  last dey pitch him head foremost, co-souse, inter de sea.

"De whirlygust he stop right smack.  But, bless de Lord!  whar Jonah?  A great big fish he cum up and lick him down like salt --- hardly a bug moufful fur sich a big whoppin feller.  Jonah, when he gits down inter de paunch o' de fish, he squawks out, 'O Lord, what hab I done?'  De fish he say, 'Hush yer mouf!'  And de fish he swim, swim, swim, and kep' a-swimmin', and Jonah he bawls out de same ting.  De fish he gits more in airnest, and say, 'Hush yer mouf, I tell yer!'  and on he swim, swim, swim, till he cum to de Luxine Sea, as de white fold call him, but I call him Black Sea, 'caze he's black as jet, like a nigger.

"But pardon dis 'gression.

"When de fish he gits inter de Persian Gulf, near de mouf ob de old Euphrates, Jonah he gits mighty restless, and cries out agin, 'O Lord, what hab I done?'  De fish he tell him to hush agin.  No use;  Jonah he holler louder and louder.  De fish no mind him.  Now Jonah he hab mighty sharp finger-nails, and he use 'um good, I tell yer.  He begin ter claw and scratch the fish's paunch, 'tarmined to git out'n dar.  De fish he gits sick in de craw, and he swim, swim, swim right fur land, 'tarmined to throw him up to dry.  And,sure 'nuff, he gin one great big hee-oh, and out cum Jonah right on de flat of he back on de bank.

"De Lord he say to him, 'Gwine to preach now, Jonah?'  Jonah he say, 'Yes, Lord, dat I will!'  and off he moseyed to Nineveh, and done some ob de biggest preachin' ye ubber hearn tell on.  Dis, brudderin and sisterin, is de true varsion ob Jonah and de whale.  All de rest is false, and rotten as mud."



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