Martha Maria Mixon was a “widder lady.” So she described herself whenever anyone asked her as to her status in life. To her more intimate friends she confided that she was not a “weed widder,” but one of the “grass” variety. The story of how her husband, Madison, had never been “No ‘count, even befo’ de wah,” and of his rapid degeneration thereafter, was vividly told.
“De fact of de mattah is,” Mrs. Mixon was wont to say, “my man, Madison, was nevah no han’ to wo’k. He was de settin’-downest man you evah seed. Hit wouldn’t ‘a’ been so bad, but Madison was a lakly man, an’ his tongue wah smoothah dan ile; so hit t’wan’t no shakes fu’ him to fool ol’ Mas’ ’bout his wo’k an’ git erlong des erbout ez he pleased. Mas’ Madison Mixon, hisse’f, was a mighty ‘dulgent so’t o’ man, an’ he liked a laugh bettah dan anyone in de worl’. Well, my man could mek him laugh, an’ dat was enough fu’ him. I used to lectuah dat man much ’bout his onshifless ways, but he des went erlong, twell bimeby hyeah come de wah an’ evahthing was broke up. Den w’en hit come time dat Madison had to scramble fu’ hisself, dey wa’nt no scramble in him. He des’ wouldn’t wo’k an’ I had to do evahthing. He allus had what he called some gret scheme, but deh nevah seemed to come to nuffin, an’ once when he got de folks to put some money in somep’n’ dat broke up, dey come put’ nigh tahin’ an’ featherin’ him. Finally, I des got morchully tiahed o’ dat man’s ca’in’ on, an’ I say to him one day, ‘Madison,’ I say, ‘I’m tiahed of all dis foo’ishness, an’ I’m gwine up Norf whaih I kin live an’ be somebody. Ef evah you mek a man out o’ yo’se’f, an’ want me, de Bible say ‘Seek an’ you shell receive.’ Cause even den I was a mighty han’ to c’ote de Scripters. Well, I lef’ him, an’ Norf I come, ‘dough it jes’ nigh broke my hea’t, fu’ I sho did love dat black man. De las’ thing I hyeahed o’ him, he had des learned to read an’ write an’ wah runnin’ fu’ de Legislater ‘twell de Klu Klux got aftah him; den I think he ‘signed de nomernation.”
This was Martha’s story, and the reason that there was no Mr. Mixon with her when she came North, drifted from place to place and finally became one of New York’s large black contingent from the South. To her the lessons of slavery had not been idle ones. Industrious, careful, and hard-working, she soon became prosperous, and when, hunting a spiritual home she settled upon Shiloh Chapel, she was welcomed there as a distinct addition to the large and active membership.
Shiloh was not one of the fashionable churches of the city, but it was primarily a church home for any Southern negro, for in it were representatives of every one of the old slaveholding States. Its pastor was one of those who had not yet got beyond the belief that any temporal preparation for the preaching of the Gospel was unnecessary. It was still his firm trust, and often his boast, that if one opened his mouth the Lord would fill it, and it grew to be a settled idea that the Lord filled his acceptably, for his converts were many and his congregation increased.
The Rev. Silas Todbury’s education may have been deficient in other matters, but one thing he knew, and knew thoroughly–the disposition of his people. He knew just what weaknesses, longings, and desires their recent bondage had left with them, and with admirable shrewdness contrived to meet them. He knew that in preaching they wanted noise, emotion, and fire; that in the preacher they wanted free-heartedness and cordiality. He knew that when Christmas came they wanted a great rally, somewhat approaching, at least, the rousing times both spiritual and temporal that they had had back on the old plantation, when Christmas meant a week of pleasurable excitement. Knowing the last so well, it was with commendable foresight that he began early his preparations for a big time on a certain Christmas not long ago.