From Hill Town to Strieby [Kindle Edition]

From Hill Town to Strieby [Kindle Edition]

by Margo Williams


Publisher Backintyme Publishing

Published in Nonfiction, History

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Book Description

From Hill Town to Strieby is Williams’ second book. In it, she provides extensive research documentation on the rural community of Hill Town that would become known as Strieby and the American Missionary Association affiliated church and school.

Sample Chapter

A Thirst for Education

The American Missionary Association (AMA) believed education was not all that was needed to help the Freedmen make a smooth transition into mainstream life. They believed that Christian education was equally as important. They recognized that survival in a slave culture meant the use of questionable ethical and moral behaviors, such as lying and deceit. While useful coping mechanisms in slavery, they were decidedly maladaptive behaviors in freedom. Thus, the AMA paired churches with their schools.[1]

The gospel message of justice delivered by the American Missionary Association and its educational efforts in Southwestern Randolph County were not new when the Rev. (Alfred) Islay Walden returned to preach and teach in 1879. What made his witness different was that he was a former slave, not a white man. He was from Southwestern Randolph County, he was returning to his people. This time the establishment of a church and school for the people of Hill Town and neighboring Lassiter Mill was permanently sustained by the self-determination of its people. Uwharrie Friends Meeting, Rocky Branch Church, the Rev. Daniel Worth had all been stepping stones along the way.

The Rev. (Alfred) Islay Walden

The Rev. (Alfred) Islay Walden was born a slave circa 1843 in Randolph County, North Carolina. Though his first name was “Alfred,” he dropped that name after a tragic lynching involving a man named “Alfred.”[2] According to his obituary in the Congregational Yearbook, of the Congregational Church, published in 1885, he was the son of Ruth and Branson (Garner) Walden.[3] In addition, a previously unidentified marriage between Alfred I. Walden and Amelia Frances “Fannie” Harris, in Wake County, 17 October 1867, listed Branson Walden and Ruth Walden as his parents, which would be consistent with the Congregational Yearbook assertion.[4]Although family members claim his father was a Free Man of Color, William D. Walden Jr.,[5] an article written about his ordination at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS) in New Jersey, appearing in the New York Evening Post, on 2 July 1879, stated that his father escaped from slavery on “forged papers,” and fled to Indiana.[6]

As a young man Islay reportedly worked as a laborer, hotel servant, and at the gold mines of Randolph County. His unusual math abilities and quick mind were recognized early in his life by his master, who was the first to call him a “poet,” after hearing his first rhyme recited upon the death of an ox.[7] Gone North

Shortly after Lee surrendered Walden learned of his freedom from his master.[8] By the winter of 1867-68, though nearly-blind from birth, Walden walked to Washington, D.C., determined to get both eye-glasses and an education. It was during this trip that he married Amelia Frances Harris, but there is no information about what became of her.

In Washington, DC, Walden supported himself by selling poems and political ballads on the streets, doing manual labor, and organizing Sabbath schools for black children. His work with the Sunday school was significant enough that an article appeared in the Washington Bee newspaper in 1898, over 20 years after his death. In a column entitled, Flotsam and Jetsam, his work was described:

Islay Walden, an odd genius, poet and preacher, during his collegiate days at Howard University, some twenty odd years ago, conducted a very well attended non-denominational Sunday school here. The teachers, young men and women, were drawn from the departments and the University. The singing of the school was a most attractive feature. … Walden after graduation, entered the service of the American Missionary Association, and a humble grave in a remote corner of North Carolina marks the scene of labors that duplicated his academic missionary services.[9]

Among those singing with this group included future renowned journalist, Bruce Grit (John Edward Bruce), whose bass voice “could always be heard distinctly above all others, those days when the skill of his right hand had not been so universally acknowledged.”[10] This undoubtedly was a reference to his future journalistic skills. According to the biographical sketches in his poetry volumes, a professor from Rutgers College who befriended him was able to encourage the Second Reformed Church to grant him a scholarship to study at Howard University.[11] The Howard University Normal School Directory of 1871 shows Islay Walden enrolled.[12]


Excerpted from "From Hill Town to Strieby [Kindle Edition]" by Margo Williams. Copyright © 2017 by Margo Williams. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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