July 2021

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Background material for our post–https://karenangelaellis.com/2017/02/28/ancestors-on-mission-maria-fearing-1838-1937/  :

On July 26, 1838, Maria (Ma-rye-ah) Fearing was born a slave near Gainesville, Alabama. As a house servant, she spent much of her time with her mistress and the other children. Though her owners taught their slaves the Presbyterian catechism, told them Bible stories and tales of missionaries in Africa, they refused to voluntarily free her.

After her legal emancipation in 1865, the newly freed family took the surname Fearing. At thirty-three years old she completed the ninth grade, had learned to read and write, and began working her way through the Freedman’s Bureau School in Talladega (Talladega College) to become a teacher. She taught for a number of years in the rural schools of Calhoun County, and purchased her own home.

Life as a Bible Translator

The stories she had heard on the plantation about Africa left a deep impression. In 1891, Maria heard William Sheppard, a Presbyterian missionary, speak at Talladega College. Sheppard appealed to the audience for volunteers to return with him to the Congo. At the age of fifty-six, Maria applied to work with the Presbyterian missionaries in Africa. Denied at first, she was approved as a self-supporting missionary.

In May 1894, she sold her home and paid her own expenses to sail from New York to the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Once reaching shore, Sheppard, three other African Americans, and Maria traveled another 1200 miles inland on a two-month journey to a mission station at Luebo. After two years, she was recognized as a full missionary and began receiving a salary.

Fearing entered a country that had just endured a bloody war in 1892-1893 between forces controlled by Leopold II and by Arab forces out of Zanzibar. Leopold had been awarded the Congo during the European partition of Africa in 1885, and hist eventual victory over Arab forces left him in total control of what was called the Congo Free State. His troops, led by the Force Publique, brutalized the populace to extract quotas in the rubber and ivory trade, killing thousands and cutting off their right hands as proof of the kills.

The slave trade also was still rampant. Luebo, in the western part of the nation where Fearing was stationed, was somewhat insulated from the conflicts. On at least two occasions, however, the station was threatened, and Fearing had to prepare for evacuation or invasion. Sheppard, who had inspired Fearing to go to the Congo, was one of several Presbyterian missionaries who spoke out publicly about Leopold’s brutality and eventually helped to bring his control of the region to an end in 1908. Nevertheless, estimates of the number of people slaughtered during this period run as high as 10 million.

Fearing undertook to help the husband and wife who were running the mission there, and began learning the local language. As she progressed in her mastery, she began teaching a Sunday school class and translated the Bible into the Baluba-Lulua language. She was given an official position and a salary by the Presbyterian Church.

Justice, and the Pantops Home for Girls

Fearing began asking local families to let their daughters stay with her overnight so that she could begin to educate them. As the word got out about Fearing’s efforts, more and more young girls were sent to live at the mission. Fearing also began ransoming children from the slave trade, from groups that had kidnapped them or to whom they had been sold. She purchased their freedom with goods like scissors, cloth, salt, and other items. She was soon housing 40 to 50 young women.

Using her own salary and donations from home, Fearing oversaw the construction of a multi-room house, with six to eight girls per room, each monitored by an older girl. The girls took part in keeping the facility clean and learned basic sanitation, cooking, sewing, and ironing from Fearing. She also held a church service every day after breakfast. The girls attended the missionary day school to learn to read and write. The home eventually became known as Pantops, after a Presbyterian school in Virginia.

Mama wa Mputu

maria-fearing-in-lueboFounding the Pantops Home for Girls became one of her most lasting contributions. This home helped girls who were orphans, and those who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Maria used trinkets, tools and even salt to barter for their freedom. She taught reading, writing, arithmetic, homemaking skills, gardening, and the tenets of the Christian faith. She hoped that these girls would spread these principles of good conduct and Christianity. Her students nicknamed her, “mama wa Mputu,” (mother from far away) as a symbol of their love and appreciation.

Maria Fearing worked tirelessly for more than twenty years among the children of the Congo, and at the age of 78 was encouraged to retire. She was honored in 1918 by the Southern Presbyterian Church. After returning to Alabama, Maria taught at a church school in Selma. She died 1937 at the age of 99.

Mama wa Mputu was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

Adapted from:

The African American Registry

The Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame

The Encyclopedia of Alabama 

Dr. De Witt on Dr. Van Dyke’s Rejoinder (New York Evangelist, July 25, 1889)

Photograph as found in Calvin Memorial Addresses. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1909.

Photograph as found in Calvin Memorial Addresses. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1909.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia Biography of Thomas Cary JOHNSON

JOHNSON, Thomas Cary, educator, was born at Fishbok Hill, Monroe county, Va., July 19, 1859; son of Thomas and Alinerva. (Hinchman) Johnson; grandson of Barnabas and Sarah (Thomas) Johnson and of William and Mary (Simms) Hinchman, and a descendant of Scotch, Irish, Huguenot, Dutch and English ancestors. He was graduated from Hampden-Sidney college, Va., in 1881, took diplomas in Latin, Greek and mathematics at the University of Virginia, 1883-84, graduated from Union Theological seminary, Va., in 1887, and was a special student at the Yale Divinity school, 1887-88. He was licensed by the presbytery of Greenbrier, W. Va., in May, 1887; was professor of Greek and Hebrew exegesis at Austin Theological school, Texas, 1888-90, and was also assistant professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of Texas during those years. He was ordained by the presbytery of Central Texas in August, 1890, and was a stated supply and pastor-elect of the 3d Presbyterian church at Louisville, Ky., 1890-91. He was professor of English Bible and pastoral theology at Union Theological seminary, Virginia, 1891-92, and became professor of ecclesiastical history and polity there in 1892. He was elected a member of the American Historical association. He received from Hampden-Sidney college the degree of D.D. in 1891, and that of LL.D. in 1899. He is the author of:

A History of the Southern Presbyterian Church (1894, in Vol. XI. of the American Church History Series);
Alleged Differences Between the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches (1894);
Ministerial Training (1896-97);
A Brief Sketch of the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1897);

The Mode of Baptism in the Apostolic Age (1899);
John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation: A Sketch (1899).
He also edited the collected writings of the Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Peck, and contributed numerous articles to periodicals and newspapers.


Monroe Co. WV

Virginia, Rebirth of the Old Dominion, Vol 5, pg 127, 1929

Thomas Cary Johnson, D.D. LL.D. is one of the best known scholars, theologians and educators in the South. His career has for thirty eight years been closely associated with the Union Theological Seminary at Richmond, where he has held various chairs in the faculty of instruction and has been the man chiefly instrumental in building up the splendid library of that institution.

Doctor Johnson was born at Fishbok Hill, Monroe Co. Va., July 19, 1859, son of Thomas and Minerva (Hinchman) Johnson. His father was a Confederate soldier and after the war lived on a farm in Monroe Co. until his death in Dec. 1894. He was a director of his community bank. Dr. Johnson’s mother died in Feb. 1890. Doctor Johnson was educated in local schools and in Hampden-Sidney College where he graduated with the A.B. degree in 1882. Subsequently Hampden-Sidney bestowed upon him the Dr. of divinity degree in 1891 and the Doctor of Laws degree in 1899. He received diplomas in the schools of Latin, Greek and Mathematics at the University of Virginia, where he was a graduate student in 1883-1884. In 1887 he graduated from the Union Theological Seminary of Virginia and spent the following year as a special student in Yale University.

During 1888-90 Dr. Johnson was a professor of Old and New Testament exegesis in the Theological School at Austin Texas. In 1890 he was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and for one year was pastor of the third church at Louisville.

Dr Johnson began his long and notable service with the Union Theological Seminary in 1891, first as professor of English Bible and pastoral theology. He was professor of ecclesiastical history and polity from 1892 to 1913 and since August 20, 1913 has held the chair of systematic theology. He became librarian of the seminary in 1907.

He married December 26, 1894, Miss Ella Faulkner Bocock, of Appomattox, Virginia, the third daughter of Thomas S. Bocock, one of Virginia’s able lawyers and for a number of years a member of Congress from the state until the outbreak of the Civil War and during the war he served in the State Senate. Mrs. Johnson, who died in April 1928 was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Society of Colonial Dames and the united Daughters of the Confederacy. Dr. Johnson has three children: Thomas Cary Jr. now an associate professor at the University of Virginia; Eleanor Holmes, an instructor in Queen’s College at Charlotte, N.C. and Miss Ann Faulkner, at home.

Archival Collections—

Papers, Thomas Cary Johnson, 1891-1928, English Archival Material Archival Material 20 ft.

Abstract: Correspondence; journals; sermons; lecture notes and lectures on theology, missions, history of doctrine, church history, biblical studies, and Christian ethics; articles opposing union of northern and southern Presbyterian churches; essays on Christianity and evolution; pamphlets; biographical notes on Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), Benjamin M. Palmer (1781-1847), and James Latimer (1845-1892); report (1912) on Romanism, by Johnson and others to General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in the U.S.; scrapbooks; prayers; photos; and other papers, relating to Johnson’s activities as minister, author, and professor of the Bible, ecclesiastical history, and systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.

Harold Prince, in his Presbyterian Bibliography, indicates thirty titles by Thomas Cary Johnson.

Joining & Receiving (1982) – Ascension Presbytery (PCA), Service of Uniting.
Shown below is the program from the Service of Uniting the Presbytery of Ascension (PCA) and the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the RPCES. Official union of the two denominations occurred on June 14, 1982, This Service of Uniting took place about a month later on July 9th, at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh. With the Joining & Receiving, Ascension Presbytery had a total of thirty churches on its roster. By 1993, growth of the Presbytery allowed the creation of the Pittsburgh Presbytery and then later, in 2010, other Ascension churches were ceded over for creation of Ohio Presbytery. Currently Ascension Presbytery has sixteen churches on its roster.

“Today in Church History” June 18, 2016

Today we celebrate the birth of the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger. He was born on this day in 1504. At the age of 15 his parents sent him to study theology at the University of Cologne. 

After his own study of the scriptures, the church fathers, and the writings of Martin Luther, Bullinger fully embraced the principles of the Reformation.

After a short period of time in the ministry he distinguished himself as a preacher and theologian. He then followed Zwingli as the pastor of the church in Zurich.

Bullinger played a central role in creating in the writing of the First and Second Helvetic Confession. His most known work “The Decades” had a major impact on the English reformation.

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