IGHR (Samford) — Day 5 — Inheritance, Maps, and The Biography of Job

The Biography of Job

In the Virginia class today, Barbara Vines Little took us through a couple of examples where small nuances in the law of inheritance could help us sort through possible relationships in land records.

She also walked us through a vast array of map resources for Virginia. I will write a separate article about those.

After the class, I headed to the Samford Library Special Collections to see what else I could find out about Job, the African-American preacher.

I looked in the first box of materials about the history of the Canaan Baptist Church by Simon J. Smith. It was not in this box, though the accession records said that it would be. Thankfully, Elizabeth Wells, the Special Collections Librarian, was able to locate the “Biography of Job” mentioned in the accession book.

The biography was a single card, which reads:


Job, an African brought as a slave to Charleston So. Carolina in 1806, purchased by Mr. S. Davis, and owned by him as long as he lived. Job professed religion in 1812 – soon learned to read, and taught a Sabbath school for two summers in Abbeville Dist., S. C. under the car of James Thompson, Esq., was licensed to preach in 1818 – same [sic] to Alabama in 1822- resided in Jefferson and Tuscaloosa County with his master, until 1833, when Mr. Davis removed to Pickens County. There, Job died, on the 17th day of Nov. 1835. His wife followed in less than a year and a half. The last words she ever uttered were “O tell me no more, of this world’s vain sore, etc.” As soon as she finished signing the verse, she cloased her eyes on the world. Few better preachers were found in Alabama in those days, than Job. He was generally loved and respected by all who knew him. He lived the Christian and died the Saint.

This brief profile of Job was a note for Mr. Smith’s book Canaan: Garden Spot by the Cuttacochee, 1818-1968, of which I shall write more later. While I certainly wish I had a lot more information about Job than I do, I have a starting point. I find it fascinating to see that an African-American slave could have opportunities to speak in public and build a ministry. While he was a slave to the end of his days, that slavery appears to have been somewhat tempered by the “love and respect” he received from the slave-holders and their defenders in white religious society and culture. This is a reminder that slavery was more complex (though not less reprehensible) than we might imagine.

Simon J. Smith, compiler. Simon J. Smith Papers. Special Collections, Samford University Library, Birmingham, AL: SCB 711.

Simon J. Smith and Fanna K. Bee. Canaan: Garden Spot by the Cuttacochee, 1818-1968. (Bessemer, Alabama: Canaan Baptist Church, 1971).