Mary Ames and Emily Bliss were two well-to-do young ladies from Springfield, Mass., who were a long, long way from home during the summer of 1865. Almost immediately after the Civil War ended, they volunteered to teach the children of freed slaves on Edisto Island, S.C.
They had been sworn in as teachers for the Freedman’s Bureau in Boston, but they were pretty much left to their own devices in South Carolina. They moved into two rooms in an abandoned plantation and did their best with the little they had.
Phoebe said Louisa was going to have some friends for tea–would we contribute the sugar? They were going to have a Praise Meeting in the yard, but Jim asked permission to have it on the back piazza if it would not disturb us. We consented, and told him we should like to be present. An Elder who could read, led the singing. George held for him a lighted candle, which we supplied. The leader read one or two lines from the hymn-book; then they all sang, each man for himself. After the singing, the Elder prayed. He asked the blessed Lord to raise the window curtains this blessed night and let the poor sinners look in, and if it was the blessed Lord’s will, would he this blessed evening send down his angels with a hammer and knife and knock at every sinner’s heart, for many there are this blessed evening, weeping and tearing their hair and searching for religion, and not knowing how to get it. They sang again, then the sisters walked round in a circle with short, quick steps, swinging their arms and singing, “Oh! Lord, don’t be offended. Oh! Lord, don’t judge me hard,” and much more of the same strain. They kept this up a long time; the meeting lasted till long after midnight. One song was “Sister, you come too late, the Devil came and shut the gate and carried home the keys.” Another, “When Gabriel blow his horn for Massa Jesus would he please blow a little louder?”