Liverpool, Nova Scotia 1841 - 1908
Chapter 1: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH (1841-1908)
A Black Settlement at Black Point
A Church is Erected in 1841
Church Sold at 1865 Auction
Aunt Katie Berriman
Interior of the Church
Destruction of the Church
Ministers of the Church
Charles West - Last Surviving Trustee
LIVERPOOL, NOVA SCOTIA
(also called the African Wesleyan Church)
Written by Tim McDonald, Milton, Queens County, Nova Scotia
It is very difficult to visualize a thriving Black Community in Liverpool history, when today we have so few Black families living here. Various recordings reveal how several of the Black families made their way to Queens County. Several of these families came here from the United States as Black Loyalists, while others came with their 'owners' or 'masters'. Some made their way here by working on the sailing ships that came to Liverpool from Jamaica, Bermuda and other southern areas. The Blacks that came with their owners, of course, were known as 'slaves' though some Liverpool books mention these people as 'domestic servants'. The 'Slaves' in Liverpool and Queens County were apparently not treated harshly, though the full extent of their treatment will never be known. Some of these families have descendants who still live in the Liverpool area today (1994).
The majority of the Black families lived in a settlement on the west side of Liverpool harbour in the area now known as Mersey Point. However at the time that the Black families lived there, it was known as Black Point. With the number of families that occupied this area, it is not surprising that they eventually built their own church to practice their religious belief in and to serve as a place to unify their community.
The site on which the church was to be built on, was given by Robert Barry. The land measured 40' by 60' and was located near Black Point in an area known as Mount Pleasant. Largely responsible for the support and building of this church was the Goosely family who were a Black family from Black Point. Many other Black families were involved in the church as well, including the Croxens, the Greens, the Morrisons, the Neals, the Johnsons, the Stoutleys and several others.
In 1841, the House of Assembly in Halifax granted 25 pounds to be paid to 'James Goosely and others' to complete the African Chapel. We assume that as early as 1841, the Black families had their own church. This church has been recorded with various names, such as the African Wesleyan Chapel, the Black Methodist Episcopal Church and others. Being able to run their own affairs through their own church was probably considered to be quite a feat for these families, who had to work very hard to keep their church in operation. I'm sure that the Black families were permitted to attend the other churches in Liverpool, but no doubt they would have had to sit at the back of the church and they would have no say in that church's affairs. By having a church of their own they could do things as they wanted.
The church served as both a church and a meeting house for the Black community. The Liverpool Transcript recorded various events which took place at the church. In 1858, the Liverpool Transcript revealed that on January 6,1858, Mr. Joseph G. Smith was giving a lecture at the old Chapel. This lecture dealt with "Education and disadvantages of the coloured people through this province". Also recorded in that same newspaper in November of 1858, it was announced that on November 9, there was going to be a tea meeting to be held at the African Wesleyan Chapel for the benefit of building a Mission House. This was signed by Ellen Stoutley and Martha Falls. To my knowledge a Mission House never materialized.
It is unknown exactly what ups and downs this church had during its existence. There were times of uproar during times of disagreement and troubles, but there was also many times of worship and praise. Many Liverpool seniors remember their parents talking about the church. Many of the white people from Liverpool would travel to Mount Pleasant and sit near the church just to hear the singing that was happening inside the church. One can only imagine how beautiful it must have sounded. For some unknown reason, possibly financial or whatever, the African Chapel went on the auction block in 1865. The Liverpool Transcript announced that on Monday, March 6, 1865, the Old African Chapel at Mount Pleasant, on the Black Point Road was going to be sold by Public Auction. This sale also included the land on which the chapel was built.
This did not spell the end to the African Church. The auction was held and the church was purchased by none other than a member of the Goosely family. The Liverpool Transcript announced that the African Chapel was sold by auction and was purchased by Mr. William Goosely. The intent for the building was to convert it to a school house. The Black community petitioned to the House of Assembly in Halifax, for the Blacks to have their own school district and also be allowed a separate grant. To my knowledge this also never materialized, and the African Church continued to exist.
As mentioned earlier, there were several families who took an active role in maintaining and keeping the church in operation. One particular person that I have been quite successful in finding information on, who was involved in the Black Methodist Episcopal (B.M.E.) Church was Catherine Berryman, whom I believe was the widow of the late Charles Berryman. In 1865, Catherine remarried to Samuel Peterson. Catherine and Samuel had no children of their own, so Catherine devoted an extensive amount of her time to the Black children of the Liverpool area.
Catherine acquired the nickname 'Aunt Katie' and has been recorded as 'Aunt Katie Berryman' and 'Aunt Katie Peterson'. Aunt Katie was so dedicated to the church, that even after she married Samuel Peterson and he went to White Point (near Liverpool) to live and do farming, she remained in Liverpool to help with church affairs and especially to help the Black children. Aunt Katie sang in the church choir and she sang in many of the church concerts. It is recorded that in 1952, Mr. Robert Butler remembered that Aunt Katie was a wonderful singer - the best Liverpool ever produced. She devoted a great deal of time teaching the children to read, write and sing.
Aunt Katie and her husband Samuel Peterson raised a boy named William Francis, who eventually claimed the Peterson name. There was apparently no relation to this young lad, so perhaps he was one of the black children who attended the church. Maybe he was parentless and as a result, Aunt Katie and her husband took him into their home.
In the book Sandy Cove, written by T.Brenton Smith as told by William Henry Smith, Mr. William H.Smith reminisces about Aunt Katie. This is what Mr. Smith had to say:
"One regular adherent of these services, as well as of the prayer meetings and concerts was Aunt Katie Berryman (grandmother of Joshua Berryman), a fine Christian coloured lady who lived opposite Hill's Grove on what is still known as Berryman 's Hill. Though when I first knew her I considered her to be well along in years, she was probably then a middle aged lady. Always she wore a black bonnet trimmed around the front with white lace and tied under her chin. In her younger days she must have had a sweet voice, but at this time it had a tendency to be a little course; however the volume and gusts of it always appealed to me.I can remember her singing:
"You young, you thoughtless and you gay;
Remember there's a judgement day;
You are passing away,
Like a long summer's day'."
If Mr. Smith is correct in his statement about Aunt Katie being the grandmother of Joshua Berryman, then Aunt Katie would be my great great great grandmother. According to the 1901 census, Aunt Katie was born on November 15,1817. Other records show that she died on August 13,1902 at the age of 84 years. Though Aunt Katie lived at a time where a woman's place was at home, she certainly was a remarkable woman and she left behind a legacy to the people of her day.
Very little is known about what that actual interior and exterior of the church looked like. However, we have found an article in the July 26, 1899 Liverpool Advance. The article points out that the church had undergone renovations and repair. From the article we learn that the church had a "Ceiling with a delicate tint of blue, walls which were a light rich brown, trimmed with beautiful sprigs of gold which ran around the arch. The motto 'Enter into His courts with praise' was to be placed under the arch."
Over the years since the African Chapel had been built, many changes in the Black community had taken place. Several of the older generation had died and many of their descendants found their way to the United States and other areas, where they made their home. During the earlier days of the church, the community filled their church to it's capacity, but in later years the congregation declined for the reasons mentioned earlier.
Sadly on January 22,1908, The African Chapel was set fire by an arsonist. In a matter of a few hours, the many years of hard work done by the Black community were totally destroyed. Unfortunately, there was no insurance on the building. Plans were made to hopefully rebuild, but nothing materialized. The arsonist was never found.
From the Liverpool Advance January 29, 1908 issue:
"The Mount Pleasant Church was totally destroyed by fire at 1 o'clock a.m. on Thursday last. It is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary. No insurance."
Since the African Chapel was lost so many years ago, there is no one alive who can remember it. However some people remember their parents mentioning the church. One Liverpool lady told me that her mother could remember the night that the church burned to the ground. The flames could be seen from all over the town especially across the Mersey River where this particular woman lived. The woman being only a young girl was very frightened by the fire.
The Black Methodist Episcopal Church/African Wesleyan Chapel has long vanished from Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Thanks to the curiosity of local historians and researchers, we have tried to compile as much information on this Liverpool landmark as possible. Though it has not been an easy task it has proven to be a successful search, since at one time we basically knew nothing about it other than that it did exist. Gone is the church and gone is the Community from Black Point - a community which has entered the pages of Liverpool's history.
Written by Tim McDonald
Milton, Nova Scotia
The following is a list of ministers of the B.M.E. Church. They were taken from marriage records of marriages that were performed at the church. This list is not a complete list, but it will offer us some idea of many of the ministers who preached at the B.M.E. Church and when they were there.
1852 Rev. A.Polsey
1861 Rev. Henry W.Sampson
1864 Rev. Henry Grurors
1867/1868 Rev. George D.Williams
1869 Rev. Josephus O'Banyoun
1871 Rev. Enos McIntosh Harper
1872 Rev. George D.Williams
1873 (April) Rev. Enos McIntosh Harper
1873 (June) Rev. George D. Williams
1873 (Sept.) Rev. Charles A.Washington
1878 Rev. George H.S.Bell
1881 Rev. Joshua W. Crosby
1886 (Oct.) Rev. Enos McIntosh Harper
1886 (Dec.)/1887 Rev. John Wesley Skerrett
1888/1889 Rev. William Berry Hill
1894 Rev. A.A. Spencer
1899 Rev. J.O. Morley
1906 (Sept.) Rev. William Berry Hill
NOTES: Rev. Charles A. Washington went on to became a bishop. Rev. Enos McIntosh Harper and Rev. Josephus O'Banyoun married girls from the Goosely family from Liverpool, N.S. They were married in Liverpool, N.S. Also, Rev. William Berry Hill married a Liverpool girl by the name of Jane Hagan.
Charles West was the father of Earl West, Sr. and Elva (West) (Berriman) Whynot. Charles West had been married in the B.M.E. Church in 1899, and he became a trustee of the B.M.E. Church. On July 5,1899, Charles West and Jessie Prudence were united in marriage at the church.
Elva Whynot told me in 1994 that her dad, Charlie West, was the last surviving Trustee of the church and as a result, he became owner of the property on which the church once stood. After Charlie West's death, the land was passed on to his children. Earl Sr. and Elva are the oldest of the surviving family. Elva says that they approached the Black United Front in hopes of getting a monument erected on the land and in turn they would donate the land to the Black United Front. Elva says that she and her brother Earl Sr. were given the 'run around' so they finally got fed up and sold the land to the people who live next door to the property The monies for the trust fund were taken from the sale of the property.
Tim McDonald, October 1994
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