Thursday, July 3, 2014

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society--Update #17

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The American Bible Society (ABS) project rolls on.  Today I spent a lot more time in the ABS Annual Reports from the first decade of its existence.  I think I am ready to outline the first chapter tomorrow morning and, if all goes well, start writing it.

In today's post I will give you a taste of the kind of things I am finding in a typical ABS annual report.  Here is an extract from a letter written from Ward Stafford to the ABS headquarters in New York City on August 21, 1821.  Stafford is an ABS field agent who is traveling through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia distributing Bibles and organizing local Bible societies.  He writes from Moorfields, Hardy County, Virginia:

“I perceived I must ride at least a part of one night on my way over the mountain from Woodstock to Moorfields. A circumstance occurred in the edge of the evening, which prevented my reaching the place I had intended.  In the woods, at a considerable distance from any dwelling, my attention was suddenly arrested by a cry from behind me, calling to me to stop, in a tone of voice which I did not much like.  I turned, and saw a man at a distance riding at full speed, with a gun on his shoulder  He had not got so near me that I thought it prudent to wait till he came up.  As he approached, I perceived that he had a long knife in a sheath hanging before him.  It was in vain to regret that I had not at first given the reins to my horse.  Fully believing, from his whole appearance and conduct, that he designed evil, I fixed my eye intently upon him, and asked him, what he wanted.  He replied that he was going the same way, and wished to have my company.  My fears instantly vanished, when I perceived from his manner of speaking, that he was partially intoxicated.  He said he had been to sell some cattle at a distance, and was returning.  I endeavoured to give him some good advice, but found he was a complete fatalist.  He observed, that if he should kill a man, he could not help it, and should not be accountable.  He inquired how far I intended to that night, and on being informed, said he was going near the same place.  

Want to know the result of Stafford's encounter with this heavily-armed intoxicated cattle-dealer?  You will need to read the book when it comes out in May 2016!