Allison-Antrim Museum

Part 2 - Prequel to Timothy Anderson Jr.’s Soldier’s Story

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It is from Matthew Anderson’s prolific writings as well as his book Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro, written in 1897 that we begin to understand how his father Timothy Sr. and mother Polly brought up each and every one of their children, and how his upbringing translated into his adulthood.


As a youth, on the family farm, the following verifies that Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson was a first-hand witness, as were his siblings, to the reception of runaway slaves, in his father’s home. On page 155, in his book, Matthew wrote the following, “Among the earliest impressions made upon our childish mind were the tales of horror about the South told by the fleeing fugitive as he lay in the secret enclosure of my father’s house where he was concealed.”   These first indelibly imprinted experiences became the roots of who Matthew Anderson would grow to become.


What was life like on the “Ridge” in Antrim?  In Greencastle’s March 25, 1905, Echo Pilot, pages 1 – 2, Matthew wrote an article entitled “Fifty Years Ago.”  It was filled with a considerable amount of reminiscences of his home, the farm on which he grew up, his church, and the quiet town of Greencastle.  Matthew wrote, “My parents in keeping with the spirit of the community were strict Sabbatarians.  Family worship on Sabbath morning, attendance at church Sabbath forenoon and evening, and Sabbath School at nine o’clock in the morning or three o’clock in the afternoon according to the season, this together with the reading of the Bible and reciting of the shorter catechism as a holy recreation between, was the rule and not the exception at my home when a boy, and what was true of our home was true of every Christian home in Greencastle and throughout Antrim Township at the time.”


Regarding work ethic, he said, “I am here to say I would not exchange the tuition I received on the old Ridge farm here in Antrim Township for the best college education in the land, and I am sure I do not undervalue a college education.”


 “… there was the same strict attention to duty during the week. An honest day’s work faithfully performed for the established rate of wages was expected of every laborer whether on the farm, in the shop or behind the counter.”


“Four o'clock in the morning was the usual time for commencing work on the farm, and six or seven o'clock in the evening, according to the season, for quitting. --- and by six o'clock hooked up and was in the field plowing or on the way to town with a load of wood or grain to the market.  Life as lived then in Greencastle and the country adjacent was indeed most rugged and exacting, or using the popular expression it was a most strenuous life, but I am free to admit that whatever measure of success I have attained in life, it has been due largely to the discipline which I received by that rugged training on the farm and there are many who would say the same."


Matthew was the “keynote” speaker for Old Home Week 1905.  In his address, he described Greencastle when he was a boy.  “Greencastle … may not have had a great town hall with its necessary accompaniments, nor a lock-up, much less a jail or a police force.  …. its happy people were not obliged to live behind bolts and bars at night, as a precaution against the midnight prowler, the sneak thief, the highway robber and the assassin.  The Greencastle which he knew when a boy may not have had in its possession great wealth, but it had a noble people of high moral Christian character, honesty of purpose and kindliness of heart who are not surpassed by any other people in this country.”


Matthew, the eighth child of Timothy Anderson Sr., was first schooled at the old Canebrake one-room school house, at the intersection of Leitersburg and McDowell Roads.  The Presbyterian Sabbath School also had a great influence on him.  These two local institutions whetted Matthew’s “craving thirst” and “longing desire” for an “opportunity to obtain an education - - - that we might be prepared to accomplish the very most possible for God and humanity, especially in lifting the standard of the race with which we were identified …”


Working his way through college by doing odd jobs, Matthew attended and graduated from Iberia College (a preparatory school) and Oberlin College (1874), Ohio, both known for their abolitionist sentiments.  After Oberlin, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he received his divinity degree in 1877.  Following that, Matthew did post-graduate work (1877-1879) at Yale Seminary School, in New Haven, CT.  He was ordained by the Carlisle (PA) Presbytery on June 12, 1878 and in 1904, Matthew received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Lincoln University.


In 1869, during his time at Oberlin, Matthew received a letter from his father, with an “urgent request that we come home at once.”  Matthew did not elaborate on the urgency but spent six months at home, during which time, he accepted a job from the Board of Freedmen, as a teacher, “and for two years had charge of the Presbyterian School at Salisbury, NC.


On page 156 of his book, Matthew, speaking of his impending time in Salisbury, NC wrote, “Never have we undertaken anything when were in a higher state of excitement, which arose, not from any fear of personal harm, for this we never had, but from a feverish desire to see and to know for ourselves. We had heard much about the South, the country, the people, the state of morals, the cotton fields, the rice swamps, the whipping posts, the slave pens, the cabins, the swarms of colored people and their wrongs.”  (The last sentence alludes to all the stories of the “fleeing” fugitives, harbored in his father’s home.)


It was at the Presbyterian School in Salisbury that his life’s ministry began.  On page 161, Matthew wrote, “Never have we seen brighter and more energetic scholars than some at this school. …  The people all around us were crying for intellectual and spiritual bread and there were at that time but few of us to furnish it.  … A number of the most influential educators and professional men and women in the South today received their first instruction under us in our school at Salisbury.”  The Presbyterian School at Salisbury became the model for the Berean Trade School, which Matthew later established in northwest Philadelphia.


At the age of 21 and just four years after the end of the Civil War, and one year after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, Matthew was very cognizant of his civil rights and was absolutely resolute when standing firm for his truths.  Matthew Anderson, the mulatto grandson of a white Scots-Irishman, born in Northern Ireland, who married an African woman, and whose father was a captain on the Underground Railroad, was well aware of racial prejudice outside of his home in Franklin County.  I have not found any reference in Matthew’s writings about him experiencing racial prejudice in Antrim or Greencastle.  That changed though when he left home and went to college.  Anecdote, after anecdote, after anecdote in his book tells the story of racial prejudice, as he experienced it after the Civil War.  “When we went south we resolved to have nothing to do with politics but to attend strictly to our duty as a missionary, but at the same time we would demand our rights on all public conveyances.  We resolved that we would never be compelled to ride in a second class car, and if we rode in a second class car it would be at our own option.”


Upon his departure from Salisbury, NC to return to Oberlin, he purchased a one-half to two-thirds reduced-price emigrant’s train ticket and boarded the car for second class “white” emigrant passengers.  The white conductor “politely” asked him to remove himself to the other end, which was for colored people.  “We told him we were emigrants and that we were in the right car.”  The conductor left but sent the black brakeman, not once but twice, to convince Matthew to move to the rear of the car.  The second time, “We now told him if he did not let us alone, we would pitch him head foremost off the train.  From that on until we arrived at Baltimore we were not interfered with further.”


With the surname Anderson, Matthew was readily accepted at Princeton Theological Seminary, for you see, the application at that time did not yet ask for racial ethnicity.  “We are so constituted that we can generally see the ridiculous or ludicrous side of a thing, a habit whether a vice or a virtue, which has served to carry us over many a rough and thorny road…”


141 years ago upon arriving at Princeton, a very confident 26-years-old Matthew went directly to the office of the corresponding secretary Dr. Alexander McGill.  McGill “met us formally” but mistook him for the colored man who was looking for manual labor at Princeton.  Matthew’s response was to hand Dr. McGill the acceptance letter McGill signed and sent to Matthew.  “A study of the old Doctor’s face as he glanced over his own letter was as good as a play. … ‘Mr. Anderson I’m glad to see you.  I didn’t know, Mr. Anderson, that it was you (a Negro) I was writing to.  Take a seat.’  By this time all the ludicrous side of our nature was excited, and we would have given anything to roar, but we were under bonds to keep our equilibrium, and we simply replied to his surprises, ‘Yes,’ ‘No, ‘Oh yes.’”  Matthew steadfastly refused off-campus housing “among your own people,” because “on-campus rooms” were part of the “inducements” that led Matthew to accept a seminary student position at Princeton.  McGill wrote a note asking Dr. Moffat to find a room in the dormitories for Mr. Anderson.


Matthew bided his time for two weeks, housed in a storage room for broken chairs, shutters, bedsteads, etc. when “… we were called upon by one of our wealthiest classmates, who is now (1897) a professor at Princeton University, who, when he noticed the pile of broken objects, said, ‘Mr. Anderson this room is not fit for occupancy, it is a lumber room.’  There is a room on the other side of the hall vacant.  There is no reason why it shouldn’t be assigned to you.”  Matthew immediately went to Dr. Moffat who protested because Princeton never before had any Negroes room in the seminary.  “It makes no difference to us whether you ever did or not, Doctor.  We are going to room there… because we were assured by Dr. McGill that a good room, well furnished, would be given us in the seminary building.”  The room was reluctantly assigned and “This ended our battles at old Princeton on the race question.”  And thus, Matthew Anderson, a mulatto farm boy from Ridge Road in Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA became the first African American to live on campus at the Princeton Theological Seminary!


Continued to Part 3


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