Several months ago I mentioned an old ledger I had bought at an auction. It had been incorrectly advertised as containing the names of Civil War soldiers from Dorchester County, Maryland; in fact, it seems that the ledger’s original purpose was to record the names, ranks, and status of Confederate soldiers from various Georgia regiments. Students of the war will be interested to know that a pig pen cipher key is written in pencil at the top of one of the first few pages. I still hope to transcribe and publish all of the information pertaining to the Confederacy, which will take some time, but in the meantime, the book contains numerous other records, journal entries, notes about the weather, hymn lyrics, and many pages of penmanship practice.
The following journal entries were written by Meshack McCready, who was from Dorchester County, but was living across the bay in Virginia in the 1860s and 1870s. A number of specific places are mentioned, including Burgess Store, Heathsville, Wainrights Chapel, and Corinth. I’ve edited the text slightly to make it more readable; many words are capitalized unnecessarily, some that should be capitalized (like “I” and “God”) are not, and he seems to have capitalized the first word of nearly every line, whether he was beginning a new sentence or not.
November 29th, 1867
To day is my fortieth birth day and I have been happy all day long I have experienced the blessings of God to my poor heart I feel as though God has been with me this whole day for I have felt his presence with me and could and did prais him for all of his goodness to me a poor sinner and to night I feel that I am on my road to Heaven.
November 30th, 1867
To day has been one of hope for I can claim the promise for I can prais God that I have been happy with the presence of the Holy Spirit to day
December 1th, 1867
Prais the lord, oh my soul and all within me rejoice for all his goodness to me for I feel him near me to day
I can say with a truth that the Lord has been good to me to day and I can say before to his holy name pray for me and I will pray for you that is the way the Christians do I love the Lord for he first loved me
To day I have felt that the Lord has been with me for I can pray his holy name I have been blest to day glory to his holy name I do believe with out a dout that if I hold out I shall be saved in heaven at last
To day I have experienced divine blessings from on hy and I can pray God for it I do thank him for all of his goodness to me so [despondent?] for I feel my unwerthaness but I have the witness in my brest that I am a child of Gods
At this point the entries are interrupted by what appears to be a parallel journal of brief notes about the weather from January 1st, 1867, through April. (One wonders whether it was really 1867, or he made the same mistake that we’ve all made one time or another, and wrote the old year after 1868 had begun.) Then the spiritual entries resume for another page and a quarter.
To day I have temptations and trials but I look to God and he helps me to over come I can prais him to night for all of his goodness to me I can do and will trust him for his grace
To day I feel as though my Lord and my God is with me for I have lifted my poor heart to high in prayer all day and he has blessed me for it I can I do and I will put my whole trust in him I will throw my hole heart upon his promises I have had some temtations to day but I find if I go to him his grace will help me in time of need
To day I have had crosses and trials but [illegible] God his grace has been poured out upon me and I have praised him for his goodness to me I feel to night that he is ever ready to answer prayer if we ask in the right spirit
To day I went to the dedication of Wainrights Chapel and the surmont was preached from the XI chapter of Hebrew 5th verse, by faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death now by [mr weston?] and I was greatly blessed and have been full of the love of God all day
To day I have felt divine presents with me and can say with the poet prais the Lord oh my soul and all within me rejoice for all his goodness to me
I have to day experienced the goodness of God I thank him for the many blessings I enjoy I can say to night to prais the Lord oh my soul and that is within me bless his holy name for all of his goodness to me
It has rained now two days the first for three months to wet vegatables to the roots 3rd Saturday and Sunday of September
Although I am deprived of going to hear the gospel preached to a dying people I can sit at home and read the word of God and be happy in his love for I love the Lord and I know he loves me as unworthy as I am for I have his promice that he will never leave or forsake them that puts their trust him him
M. J. McCready
After many pages of other material (mostly penmanship practice, and a few notes written in a different hand), there is another series of entries written by McCready.
January 1th 1872 Sunday
I went to church to preaching today and heard Dr James Smith preach from Hebrews the twelfth chapter first and second verses it was an able discorse and I hope I was profited
We have had fresh herrings for supper to night that was caught to day it is worm
Heathville January 13th 1872
I went to quarterly meting to day and brother Daves text was the 40th chapter of Isaiah and the 31st verse
January 14th Went to preaching and brother Daveses text Act the 14th chapter and 17th verse
January 21th Snowed to day and I did not git to go to church to day and I stayed at home and read the Bible and was very much edified as I prize it above all other books
January 28th Went to church to day but it was such bad weather there was no preaching as there was no pastor and no congregation there was but three of us Willie [illegible] Lewis [Littrell?] and my self although I was disapointed in hearing preaching I have read the Bible and prayed and was blessed very much
February 4th I could not go to preaching to day on the account of bad weather but I read a sermont delivered by the Rev. J. M.Mcentyre of the Louisiana Conference M. J. McCready
February 11th I went to church to day there was no preaching although we expected to hear our circuit preacher but was disappointed he has not preached since the second Sabbath in October for us at Corinth. M. J. McCready
February 18th Yesterday was a stormy and snowey day and to day I did not get to go to church but have stayed at home and read my Bible and the home journal and have read five sermons on holiness by Rev Rufus Underwood and have been greatly blessed in so doing and in prayer I am still striving for the kingdom
February 25 Clear and worm went to church and heared a very surmon by Stark Jet from the text Luke 21th 36th verse
March 3th Snowed yesterday a storm and I did not get to go to church to day and therefore I did not get to hear preaching for the creek frozen over so that I could not git across and the snow was so deep I could not get across but I did not go to sleep am blest
March 10th The snow is not gone yet and it has rained to day and I did not get to go to church to day but I have read five sermons on perfect love and three chapters in the gospel by St. Mark and have been much edified by so doing
March 17th Sunday did not git to go to church to day
March 24th We were disapointed in hearing of preaching today on the account of our quarterly meeting at Smyrna and we have no other meeting but preaching and I am getting very tired of such coldness in both preachers and members of the M.E. church South we have four preachers on our circuit and we don’t have preaching one half of the time at Corinth
March 31st We had no preaching to day as it was not preaching day old father Evins is very sick at this time and brother Covington has been unable to preach any this year and brother Crocker has quit preaching as he cannot make money enough in that way and it leaves us with only two preachers the one to preach on the first and the other on the fourth Sabbath in each month
April 7th I went to church to day and there was no body at church but myself and as it rained I went in and neeled down and prayed and was much blessed in so doing and have had comfort all day
April 14th No preaching to go to to day had to stay at home and read and prais and have been much edified in so doing grace will help in time of need if we seek a in faith
April 21st Had no preaching at Corinth to day
April 28th Had preaching by Stark Jet to day
May 5th Had preaching to day by James Smith and we organized our Sabbath School
May 12th [no entry]
Although this is the last section, chronologically, that was clearly written by McCready (there are many other pages of notes, some signed by members of the Hurley family, others not signed at all), the following entry near the end of the book is signed by McCready and dated two years earlier. It seems to be a draft of a letter to the Methodist Home Journal alluded to above. I haven’t been able to find out whether the letter was published.
Dear Journal as you do not hear from this part of old virginia I take this opportunity of wrighting to inform you of what we are doing there in Northumberland County of three weeks with great success for the glory of God it has not been my privelidge to attend such meetings for many years there has been about sixty five (65) sinners that has professed to have thier sins forgiven and believers built up in their faith we are Methadist but poor we bilt a church in eighteen hundred and fifty six (1856) and have not got it paid for yet but hope by the grace of God to pay for it some time but we have to strugle hard to pay our preachers and the one that we have this year has laboured faithfully for us this year he is a man the people both in the church and out of it like much for he just tells us how we have got to live so as to enter into the straight gate there has been as many as (20) penitents at the alter at one time for prayers we have not had scarce any class meetings for many years past but we begin to revive them again this half we have not had any rain now for near three months that is to wet the corn to the roots and therefore shall not get much of a crop but thank God we shall get enough to eat
If you see proper to to publish this you are at liberty to do so but to God be all the glory through the name of Jesus Amen
Burgess Store Northumberland, September 5th 1870
M. J. McCready
I hope to publish more information from the ledger in the near future, probably beginning with McCready’s weather journal.
– Chris Slavens