Eliza Suggs.

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Eliza Suggs.





Tliou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve
mo from trouble; thou shalt compass me about
with songs of deliverance.— Se/a/2, Ps. 23:7.


Two Copies Received

DEC t4 1306

/I copyright Entry ,
CLASS /( XXc, No.

Copyright 1906,
BY Eliza Suggs.

c > -.


While attending a camp meeting near
Alma, Nebraska, during the summer of
1895, mj attention was drawn to a little
colored girl sitting in a baby cab, who ap-
peared to take a deep interest in the ser-
vices. I was told that it was Sister Eliza
Suggs, who, amid deep affliction, was de-
veloping into a strong Christian charac-

While the reader will be touched by the
scenes of suffering related in this narra-
tive, he will be impressed that Eliza does
not belong to the despondent class. She
is evidently of a cheerful temperament,
possessing an overcoming faith which
gives her the assurance that the God
whom she loves and serves, intends to

provide for and sustain her until life's
journey is ended. She saw light where
others would have seen only darkness;
she cherished hope where others would
have felt only despair; and fearing it
might displease her Master, she reject-
ed offers of worldly gain which others
would have eagerly grasped. Of humble
parentage, limited advantages, physical
embarassments, she is shedding rays of
light along her pathway, and making im-
pressions for good on the hearts and lives
of those with whom she associates. What
a marvel of grace !

It is not strange that one into whose
life a kind Providence has brought so
much of comfort, amid suffering ; so much
the world her life story. I believe much
amid privation, should desire to give to
of joy, amid sorrow ; so much of blessing

good will be accomplished by the circu-
lation of this simple narrative, written,
as I believe it to have been, purely for the
olory of God. It will serve to forcibly
illustrate how one in sore affliction and
deep privation may possess the grace of
perfect resignation to the will of God,
and be ready for any service he may re-

Burton R. Jones.

pergonal IRcmtnteccnccs
an& Zleetlmonv-


With much pleasure I learn that Sister
Eliza Suggs, colored, of Orleans, Neb.,
is to bring out a book or biography and
reminiscences of her parents. I know
nothing in detail of her plans, but I shall
be surprised if the book is not one of
thrillino: interest. The author is a most
remarkable young woman. Born of such
heritage of physical infirmity as is sel-
dom knoAvu, she has surmounted incred-
ible di ill cult ies and made progress in edu-
cation, light labor, and the development
of Christian character, that is the as-
tonishment and admiration of her multi-
tude of friends. She is a mite of body —
apparently less than the upper third of
a normal growth.


Carried in arms or wheeled about in a
carriage, her frail hands and weH devel-
oped head have accomplished wonders,
obtaining a fair education, which makes
her a valuable assistant, sometimes as
secretary of religious organizations and
work. In former years she assisted her
father, more or less, in evangelistic work,
and she has presided in public meetings
with marked dignity and ability. Carried
on the plaform and moved about as oc-
casion required by kind and willing at-
tendants, I have perhaps never seen more
clock-like precision than the execution
of an interesting program, at which she
presided in a public temperance meeting
in the M. E. Church, during my last pas-
torate in Orleans.

She is one of several sons and daugh-
ters of most estimable Christian parents,


who were born in slavery, whose tlirill-
ing story w^ill be told in the book of which
tliis may form a brief chapter. Her fa-
ther was one of the ablest and comeliest
prcnieliers of his race whom I have known.
He considered himself of unmixed blood.
His manly form, fine countenance, and
stronir and melodious voice, made him at-
tractive, both in speech and song.

When the author of this book was very
vouno-, I was witness of a most exciting
episode in his remarkable history. V>'e
were on a camp ground in w^estern Kan-
sas. On Sabbath morning the service had
closed and many had retired from the
Tabernacle. Bro. Suggs had not yet left
the platform where he had been speaking.
He ^^'as tappped on the shoulder and re-
quested to step outside wiien three men
quickly handcuffed him and rushed him
from the grounds. I was instantly noti-
fied that he had called for me and Ixev.
E. E. Miller. I reached him about forty



rods away as they were ready to drive
off the ground. He held up his manac-
led hands and with unaffected indig-
nation, exclaimed : James Suggs, a mur-
derer!'' I inquired the meaning, and was
informed he was a suspect from Ohio for
whom a large reward was offered. The
fearful blunder of a bungling detective
and his assistants was apparent; but
that did not help in the excitement of the
moment. I assured them of the error,
asked what word I should send his wife ;
was requested to look after his horse tied
on the ground, and they were gone. While
others sought his release by legal means,
unavailing, as he was so swiftly driven
from one county to another, I telegraphed
a friend in Topeka to see the Governor,
and have the Ohio requisition refused, if
it should be presented, as seemed prob-
able. I then wrote Ex-governor St. John,
who had employed him and the refugees
which had poured into Kansas during the


noted exodus from tlie South, aud in form-
ed his old neighbors of Princeton, ill. All
this proved unnecessary, for in a day or
two he was taken before a Justice in Os-
I borne county, and speedily demonstrated
their mistake. The false arrest cost the
detective severely, and it would have gone
harder with him but for an error in the
accusation under which he was confined
for some time and brought to trial. An
account of this singular affair may be
detailed elsewhere. My efforts, occasion-
ed by the excitement of the hour, served
to bring out varied testimonials to his
worth and high esteem in which he was

Bro. Suggs has long since joined the
throng of the ransomed ones, while his
companion remains an honored and be-
loved pilgrim among the saints of Or-

One other thought comes to mind in
this connection — his realization and en-


joyment of what he sang so beautifully,
the first time I ever heard it, "The Toils
of the Road will seem Nothing when I
get to the End of the Way."

The devotion to the author of her sis-
ter, Katie, for years a member of the
Official Board at Orleans, is something
interesting and touching. Hard working
as she is at home and away, she seems
never to tire of the care of her afflicted
but honored charge. When Eliza, hidden

in church behind the seats in front, would
testify, Kate rises with her in arms, and
she speaks clearly and forcibly. There
is not a family among our people in the
place more respected or more deservedly
so. Boarding with them for eight months,
with every care and kindness shown, the
writer witnesses that he never saw an
improper act or heard an improper word.
Having heard from the lips of Sister
Suggs many an incident of slave days
and war times, I shall await with inter-
est the appearance of the forthcoming



Shetcb of fatbcr.

"Some suck up poison from a sorrow's core,
As naught but nightshade grew upon earth's
Love turned all his to heart'sease, and the more
Fate tried his bastions, she but forced a door,
Leading to sweeter manhood and more sound."

— James Russell Lowell.

My father and mother were slaves,
leather T\'as born in North Carolina, Aug-
ust 15th, 1831. He was a twin, and was
sold away from his parents and twin
brother, Harry, at the age of three years.
This separation, at so tender an age, was
for all time, as never again did he see
his loved ones. In after years he had a
faint recollection of his mother, and
could remember distinctly the words of
introduction with which he was handed
over from his old master to his new:
"Whip that boy and make him mind."


A slave had no real name of his own,
but was called by the name of his master ;
and whenever he was sold and changed
masters, his name was changed to that
of the new master. The parents gave his
first, or Christian name, however, which
was usually retained amid all his chang-
ing of masters. Father's parents named
him James. So at this time his name was
James Martin. He was sold by Mr. Mar-
tin for a hundred dollars, and taken to
Mississippi. Afterward he was sold to
Jack Kindrick, and again to Mr. Suggs,
with whom he remained until the vrar
broke out.

Father was a blacksmith by trade, and
was considered a valuable slave. Mr.
Suggs was a kind master, and as James
was an industrious and obedient servant,
he was allowed the privilege, after his
day's work was done, of working after
night for himself. He made pancake
griddles, shovels, tongs, and other small



articles, the proceeds from the sale of
which brought in many a small coin. He
was also allowed, in odd moments, to cul-
tivate a small garden patch, on his own
responsibility, and it Avas surprising
what that little patch was made to yield.
Naturally proud and ambitious, the
mone}^ thus obtained was usually spent
upon his person, enabling him to dress
better and appear to much better advan-
tage than his less enterprising compeers.
Slaves were not allowed to have an ed-
ucation. Father said he had to ^'pick
up'' what education he got, much as a
rab1)it might be supposed to pick up some
tender morsel with the grevhounds hot in
pursuit. When the master's children came
from school, thev would make letters and
say, "Jim, you can't make that." But
he would make it and find out what it
was. Again he would say to them, "You
can't spell "horse, "or "dog," or some
other w^ord he wanted to know. And they


would reply, "Yes, I can," and would
spell it. All this time he was learning,
while they had no idea that he was storing
these things up in his mind. Yes, he had
to steal what learning he got.

While James was still quite young,
Mr. Suggs bought a little slaA^e girl, nam-
ed Malinda Filbrick. In time, Jame and
Malinda came to love each other, and
were married while yet ^n their teens.
The same pride of heart which had mani-
fested itself in his own stylish appear-
ance, now prompted him to lavish his ex-
tra earnings on his young bride. One in-
stance of his extravagant indulgence was
the purchase of a |7.00 pair of ear-drops,
which doubtless afforded him much grati-
fication until the ill-fated day when they
proved too strong a temptation to a party
of Union soldiers, who carried them off
as spoils. Another outlay of his surplus
earnings was in the purchase, for his
wife, of a remarkable quilt, made after

Mrs. Malinda Suggs.


the pattern known as "the chariot- wheel."

This was truly a masterpiece of skill, and

was highly prized by my mother. It

seemed about to share the same fate as

the ear-drops and vvas in the hands of a

Union soldier, when the earnest plead-
ings of my mother prevailed upon the

kind-hearted officer in charge to give or-
ders for its restoration.

While still in slavery, father was won-
derfully converted. Before his conversion
he was a wicked young man. Pride in
dress was not his only besetment. He
loved to danc and drink, and have as
good a time, from a worldly standpoint,
as any human being could who was held
in bondage. Whenever a slave wanted
to go out to spend the evening he had to
get a pass from his master; for there
were more men called patrolment, elected
according to law, whose duty it was to
seize and thoroughly chastise any slave
who was so presumptious as to venture


out without a pass. If a slave was caught
out after nine o'clock at night, without ai
pass, he was stripped to the waist and
beaten thirty lashes on his naked back.
It was against the law to whip a slave
over his clothing. One night these pa-
trolment caught father out without a
pass. He well knew what was to follow,
and as they held him by the coat collar,
he straightened back his arms and ran
out of the coat leaving it in their hands.
They got the coat, but James never got
the whipping.

After he was converted, he would go
to his master and ask to be allowed to go
to meeting, and permission having beenij
given, he would say, "'And please, sir,
may I have a pass?" At these meetings
he would talk and exhort his fellow-
slaves, until Mr. Suggs would say, "If
James keeps on like this, he will surely
make a preacher."


Father loved freedom; or at least he
thought he should enjoy it. He never had

been a free man, and hardlv knew how
it would seem to be free. But it is natur-
al to every man, of whatever race or col-
or, to want to be free. He used often to
say to his young wife, ^^When the car of
freedom comes along, I am going to get
on board;" meaning that if he got a
chance he was going to the war.

One day the news came that the "Yan-
kees" were within four miles of Kipley,
the village near which Mr. Suggs lived.
They were reported as having aheavy force
of both calvary and infantry. Mr. Suggs
was a very wealthy man and had a large
number of fine horses and carriages, as
well as great herds of cattle and sheep.
All these he must hide, as best he could,
from the "Yankees," for they were very
destructive to the property of the south-
erners. So he called his men to gather
up his belongings, as far as possible, and


take them to the cane-brake to hide them.
The canes grow so thickly together, and
the leaves so interwoven, as to make it
impossible to see any object at a distance
of even a few feet. So a cane-brake was
a fine place for hiding.

Mr. Suggs called James and told him
to take his sheep and go at once to the
cane-brake, which he did. Little did my
mother think, as she saw him go, that this
would be the last she would see of James
for three years and nine months, lint
so it was to be. When the "Yankees"
came, a colored man took them and show-
ed them where these treasures were hid-
den, together with the belongings of sev-
eral neighbors. The soldiers helped them-
selves to whatever they wanted ; and told
the slaves that any who wanted to do so
might go with them. Father thought his
time had come to strike for liberty. He
went into the war and fought for his
freedom and that of h;« family, and ob-


tained it as a weH-earned victory.

Many of the slaves, in making their
escape north with the Union army, took
with them their wives and children. So
father fondly hoped he could get some
soldiers to come back with him to get
mother and the four children. He knew
but little of army life and discipline, and
so was bitterly disappointed in never get-
ting back.

When the excitement was over and the
soldiers gone, and some of the slaves came
back to the plantation, father did not ap-
pear. Mr. Suggs came to mother and
said,'' Malinda, w^here is James?'' "I don't
know," said mother. "Didn't you send
him ofe with the sheep?" But he would
not believe her when she said she didn't
know. He blamed her for father's going
away, and thought she had put him up
to go.

Father enlisted in 1864, but was wound-
ed shortlv after and discharged from ac-


tive service and sent to the hospital. Af-
ter recovering from his wound, he joined
the regular service and continued until
the close of the war, part of the ^me
acting as corporal of his company. When
the war was over, he came north with his
captain, Mr. Newton. The thought up-
permost in his mind, was how to get his
family from the south. For him to have
gone after them, in person, at that time,
would have been at the risk of his life.
Mr. Newton, having business in the
south, and being a kind-hearted man, fa-
ther begged of him to go and find his fam-
ily and bring them to him. This Captain
Newton did, finding them not far from
where father had left them.

Father now went to work with great
zeal at his trade to earn money for the
purpose of getting a home for his family.
He was at last a free man, with his dear
family — a free family, and living in his
own free country. The slaves could not



36 married as white people were; for tliere
was a clause in the marria<i;e ceremony
which gave the slave-holder the right to
separate husband and wife whenever he
chose to do so. I have heard my motlier
say that she has known instances where
husband and wife have been separated
after having been married only a few
weeks, or even only a few days. My fa-
ther said that seeing he was now a free
man, he wanted to be married like other
free peoj^le. So on the fifth day of June,
in 1866, father and mother were married
again according to the Christian rites, or
according to the white man's law.

Father continued to work at his trade
until God called him to preach the Gospel.
He had a great struggle over his call to
preach. He had worldly ambitions and
was making money, and it was hard for
him to give up all and follow Christ. Fin-
ally he consented to preach, but did not
sro at it with his whole heart. He would


preach occasionally, but still worked at t
his blacksmithing, until one night the
Lord spoke to him plainly. He said it wa« •
like an audible voice saying, "Either [
preach the Gospel or work at your trade." '
He was to make his choice, but it meant
to him heaven or hell. Which would he
take? He trembled as he felt the respon- •
sibility of leading lost souls to Christ. But t
he made his choice and said, "Yes,-' to »
God. He began preaching around in i
school houses. Large crowds gathered to )
hear him, and from that time on, it was i
the business of his life to minister Divine
truth to dying men and women.

In 1874 he was given exhorter's license,
by Kev. 0. E. Harroun, Jr., in the Illi-
nois Conference of the Free Methodist
church. In 1878 he was given a local
preacher's license by Rev. Edwin C. Best,
pastor of the Sheffield circuit, Galva dis-
trict, of the Illinois Conference. In 1879
he was ordained deacon in the Illinois


Couferenco, by General Superintendent
B. T. Roberts, and in 1884, in tlie West
Kansas Conference, he was ordained el-
der by General Superintendent E. P.

His labors during the early years of his
ministry were in the Illinois Conference.
Rev. C. W. Sherman came to Princeton,
where v/e lived, with a band of workers
and held a tent meeting. This band con-
sisted of C. L. Lamberts and wife, F. D.
Brooke, and Lizzie Bardell, now his wife;
D. M. Smashey, and Belle Christie, now
his wife. These band workers have since
developed into prominent preachers and
evangelists in the Free Methodist church,
some of them having filled the ofiice of dis-
trict elder for several years. They were
at this time entertained in our home.
While the meeting was in progress one
night the rowdies gathered, cut down the
large tabernacle and threw stones into
the small tents. Brother Sherman tried


to persuade them to desist when one
struck him in the eye, nearly putting out
his eye. Brother Smashey received a cut
in his head, from which pools of blood
stood around the tent.

Next morning my father looked down
toward the camp ground and saw that the
tent was down, and he and mother went
down with sorrowful hearts to comfort
the workers. Brother Sherman met them
with a joyful, "Praise the Lord, Sister
Suggs, I shall preach tonight if I haven^t
either eye." And he did, with a bandage
around his eye. And with another baud-
age around Brother Smashey's head, they
looked like soldiers after a battle. The
Lord gave a grand victory, for the hearts
of the people were turned toward them in
sympathy. A good collection was taken
to defray the expenses of the meeting, the
tent was raised, and the meeting went on
with power. Souls were saved and added
to the small society already organized in


that place. The city authorities promised
protection from future disturbance, and
kept their promise.

In the year 1879 father went to Kansas
as an evangelist. This was the year of
the great drouth and grasshopper scourge.
I There was a colony of colored people, who
had come from the south and settled in
Graham county, Kansas, naming their lit-
tle settlement Nicodemus. Father went
to preach to these people. He found them
in a suffering condition, nearly starving,

I and with scarcely enough clothing to cov-
er their nakedness. Father visited Hon.
John P. St. John, at that time Governor
of Kansas, to see what could be done for
these people. The governor sent him back
to Illinois to solicit aid for them; for,
said he, "After you have provided for

' their temporal needs, then they can hear
your Gospel.'' He solicited accordingly

II in Illinois, and sent back barrel after bar-
rel of clothing to the people.


He afterward took up a homestead in
PhiUips county, Kansas, and in the year
1885 brought his family to Kansas. He
was now almost constantly in the work of
the Lord. He often said, "I would sooner
wear out than rust out," and surely God
granted him the desire of his heart.

But while he was thus working earnest-
ly to build up God's kingdom, Satan was
just as busily at work to hinder and de-
stroy his labors. Jesus said to Simon
Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath
desired to have you, that he may sift you
as wheat; but I have prayed for thee."
Ah! here was Peter's only strength, "I
have prayed for thee." In the power of
those prayers, and in that alone, could he
overcome. The same old enemy is in the
world today and his hatred and spite to-
ward God's children is just as strong as
it was in Peter's day. He still desires to
have God's little ones that he may sift
them as wheat.


The powers of darkness were now turn-
ed loose upon father. Wicked men laid
hands upon him and took him to prison.
This occurred on the camp ground at Mar-
vin, Kansas. One afternoon, after he was
through preaching, some one came up to
him and said, ^'Brother Suggs, some one
wants to see you.'' He was led out sup-
posing he was going to have a talk with
some old friend or with some one who was
inquiring the way to God, as many such

; came to him for counsel. He found him-
self being liandcuffed and being hurried
away between two disguised detectives,
who accused him of being one Harrison
Page, an escaped murderer. In vain he
pleaded innocence. ^'You are Harrison
Page," said his accusers. "Your name is
not James Suggs. You are a murderer."

i: Imagine his surprise ! But the T.nrd bless-
ed him right there, and as he was led
away, he was heard praising the Lord.
The last word he said to the brethren was,


"Take good care of old Dollie, and see
that she has plenty of water, take her
home, and tell wife I will come out all
right." One looking on observed, "Any
man in such a condition as that, arrested

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