… Self life that might hender and draw you to earthly thing it inpels you on in to Godlines Paul sed I die dailey to the things of this world yeal your life dailey and hold your life in submision to the will of God and live by his word that you may grow unto the fulles measure of the staturs of Chris the one that lives wright is the ones who will a bide bide with him the day of his coming and stand when he a …
… Come by your God like impression God will take care of you no matter where you are cax aside all fear and put your trust in God and you are save. Then when your pulgrimage is over and you are call from labor to reward you will be greeted with that holy welcome that is delivered to all true missionaries come in the blessed of my father …
My grandmother had a large, dusty black Bible that had belonged to her “mama,” Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. (The Bible’s original owner was Carolina Vick, a midwife in east Wilson — her family’s birth and death dates are inscribed in its leaves.) When I first thumbed through the Book in the early 1990s, I found two scraps of paper stuck deep in its chapters. Pencilled in a square, unsophisticated hand were these bits of Sarah’s sermons. She had left the Congregationalism of her upbringing and joined the Holiness movement sweeping the country in the early 1900s. My grandmother was not impressed:
I was just thinking ‘bout that today, ‘bout how we used to do. Mama’d make us go to Holiness Church and stay down there and run a revival two weeks. And we’d go down there every night and lay back down there on the bench and go to sleep. Then they’d get us up, and then we didn’t have sense enough to do nothing but go to sleep and get up.
Mama’d go every night. And they’d be shouting, holy and sanctified, jumping and shouting. I don’t know, that put me out with the Holiness church. And sanctified people. I know Mama wont doing right.
Evangelist Sarah spent night after night jumping and shouting, leaving my adolescent grandmother to wash and iron the endless loads of laundry they took in from white customers. Sarah apparently met her second husband, Rev. Joseph Silver, founder of one of the earliest Holiness churches in eastern North Carolina, on the revival circuit. They married in 1933 and divided the five years before her death between Wilson and his home in Halifax County.
Sarah H. Jacobs and her Bible, with my uncle Lucian J. Henderson in the background, taken in Wilson NC circa 1930. (I have the Bible, but some time between when I first saw — and transcribed — the sermon scraps and when I took possession after my grandmother’s death in 2001, the pieces of paper were lost.)
Photo of Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.