Legends of St Johns

Legends and Memories of St John's Chapel 
Addressed to R. A. Riddick
by Major John W. Moore 
Part 1 - published in the Windsor Ledger June 22, 1899

Friend Robert, let me gossip
  "Crack a wee" as Burns would say
Of that village and people:
  Where as boys we used to play;
Of Ahoskie Ridge long famous
  Both for men and women fair, 
To recall much that we cherish,
                              Ere from memory it perish.                              

So I propose good neighbor
  To tell in simple rhyme,
Something of the fate and fortunes
  Of the men of olden times,
Who lived and loved and perished
  In the ages lost and gone;
Where the chapel of St. John
  In old times blessed and named the place
So long a shine of light and grace.

I tell an o'ar true tale sir,
  Of the oldest of our towns
That had shrunk into a hamlet
  Ere we wore our baby gowns;
Where in the last two hundred years,
  Many spirits rich and rare,
Have walked beneath its great oak trees
  That once grew so bravely there;
But alas, the trees and spirits
  No more count among the merits.

St. Johns was made a village
  At a time so long ago
I fear you'll think my story
  Is all fiction and untrue;
But good neighbor 'tis recorded
  That when Eden ruled the State,
And Blackbeard lived by pillage
  'Till he met his bloody fate.
Even then St. Johns was showing
  How important it was growing.

You have surely heard Friend Bob,
  How the big men fussed and fumed;
Old Spottswood in Virginia, 
  And our Mosely so well groomed;
How Virginians were claiming
   Well nigh all of Albemarle;
But that Mosely was too wary,
   And by help of Colonel Maule,
Kept St. Johns in Carolina
   Where we joy this day to find her.

Edward Mosely was chief Lawyer
    And the boss in politics,
Who often got the better
   By good sense and sometimes tricks
Of those stately royal governors
   Who would undertake to rule
Against the King's own promises;
   So this Mosely brave and cool,
Stood by his people like a man,
   And left behind a record grand.

Sometimes this great man, neighbor,
   Came to visit our St. Johns,
For he and Maule aforesaid
   Were the closest sort of chums;
So they with two rich Beverleys,
   Out at old Mulberry Grove,
Had merry times when court was o'er,
   For these gentlemen did love
To tread in gladsome midnight dance,
   When flying hours with joy advance.

When Mosely doffed his armor
   And was sleeping with the just,
Ben Hill was next bell-wether
   And assumed his noble trust,
Leading all Bertie in battle
   'Gainst both King and Governor;
For here he plumed his legions
   For the contest long and sore;
Bloodshed never marred his courses,
   As he led but peaceful forces.

Governor Gabriel Johnson,
   And his policy he fought;
Armed treason and rebellion
   Were never things that he sought;
For Hill, like Edward Mosely, 
   Would be free in church and state,
So bravely he defended them
   Through long years of stern debate:
And all unmoved by bribe and threat,
   He left a name we have to date.
  
Here were court-house and lawyers
   For a good half hundred years;
A rector too in surplice
   Woke the guilty sinners' fears;
But the good man and his sermons
   Never stopped the midnight reels,
When fiddlers and rum-toddies
   Put fresh mettle in young heels;
Both maid and matron in those days
   Were madly fond of balls and plays.

'Twas a sad day for the town,
   When the court-house was removed;
Bertie then lost Northampton;
   So away the lawyers roved;
No more the great crowds quarterly,
   As the circling years went by,
Would gather here at each assize
   Both crown pleas and suits to try;
Robed Justices and Sheriffs grim
   No longer kept affairs in trim.

Once there was a time of woe
   In the Tuscarora war,
Crowds were slaughtered in a night
   By the Indians near and far;
In Bertie, Tom Blount was friendly,
   Holding his own braves in peace,
So long as he lived among our sires
    When his own accursed race,
Had gone in Banishment away
   Unto a northland stern and gray.

A tragic tale was told me
   By the old men long ago,
Of an Indian squaw that perished 
   By a death of flaming woe;
For some horrid crime committed,
   She here suffered death by fire
Only by such grim atonement
   Could be stayed the people's ire,
And it was said her dying scream
   Made hideous many a sleeper's dream.

But St Johns saw fairer scenes,
   When there came from Eden House
The Governor with coach and four,
   To attend the gay carrouse;
When the Christmas ball was given
   Old and young grew very gay,
A good Parson Brickell gave them
   His best sermon on that day;
As Christmas came but once a year,
   They filled as full as they could bear.

But alas for the changes
   Time will work in our affairs,
St Johns was doomed to sorrow
   In the lapse of passing years;
The court-house went to Wolfenden,
    And yet later Winton rose,
To call away her citizens
    And thus make themselves her foes;
And so it was by slow degrees
    She came to lose her very trees.

Long the center of revels
   Held for all the country round,
St Johns still kept her people
   Till the struggle with the crown;
There were bridals in the chapel,
   In the tavern feast and ball,
And its score of men and women
   Set the fashions for them all,
Dwelling in that spacious plain
   Which first has been Bertie's domain.

It was still a jolly place,
   This old village of St Johns.
Rousing times it had when Tories
   Shouted for the King and Crown;
When Dick Caswell was a soldier,
   And then governor by turn,
When he and the Whigs were swearing
   By the peerless Washington;
Alack, a  day for place so gay,
   That soon was gone into decay.
 
note: 
Bertie County Deed Book G-282 
John Howell to John Brown, John Wynns, Thomas Mitchell, vestrymen,
March 1. 1749 5 sh. for 1 A. "Vestrymen & Trustees appointed to build and erect a Chappell in Society Parrish....Land near the Main road...adj. the plantation whereon I now live and whereon St. John's Chappell is to be erected and built ....for the use and benifit and Service of Some Pariahioners of Society Parish.... and all other Christian Disposed persons for the use of a church...." 
Wit: John Rieusset, John Campbell. May Ct 1750.
(abst. by Mary Best Bell)

part 1  

  part 2  

part 3 

part 4 

part 5  

part 6  

 part 7   

part 8   

part 9 

  part 10 

  part 11  

  part 12  

  part 13   

part 14

  part 15  

  part 16  

  part 17

  part 18

   part 19 

part 20

part 21

part 22

part 23

  part 24

  part 25  

  part 26

   part 27  

part 28

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