Devotion for Wednesday, September 28
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
As I travelled this country this past summer and pulled on some family history threads, I went further and further back into early American history and deeper into questions about both my family and our American past. The most fascinating thread was the one that led to a 4-great-grandfather Jordan Post (1744-1829) and his wife Abigail Loomis Post (1745-1820). They were buried in Oakville, Ontario, but Jordan Post was born in Connecticut. In fact, the Post family line went back to Stephen Post, who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1634 before arriving in Connecticut in 1636.
But what brought Jordan Post to Canada? I first assumed that he was a Tory – or at least a British sympathizer. Yet, one account I found explicitly stated that Jordan Post was not a loyalist. And he named one of his children George Washington Post, not an act of a British sympathizer. It seems that when he moved to Canada, he operated a number of early taverns, moving to Ontario with his adult children around 1803-1805.
I got excited as we went to Canada, because in one cemetery was buried Jordan and Abigail Post, along with four others in my family tree. Munn’s Cemetery is located now on a street corner in a suburban community. When we saw that it was a small cemetery, I hoped that the graves would be easy to find. That was not the case. The older gravestones were broken and unreadable at best. Then I read that Jordan and Abigail Post, along with two others, were in unmarked graves. We found the broken piece of his daughter’s headstone, but nothing of Jordan Post.
But what caused the Posts to move to Canada? From Connecticut he shows up in a 1790 census in Vermont. Were there better opportunities there? I will likely never know.
But the question of his move got replaced when I found a newspaper clipping. Jordan Post took out an advertisement in 1783 in New Hebron, Connecticut. In the advertisement, he offers a ten dollar reward for the return of his runaway “Negro servant named Enoch,” 23 years old, a great whittler, born in Norwich.
Jordan Post in 1783 was a slave owner. This is not a surprise in the Northern states. Slavery was not fully outlawed in Connecticut until the 1840s. And if I can find abolitionists in my family history, I should not be surprised that I would also find slave owners.
It is unclear whether Enoch was ever found, and the 1790 census does not list Jordan Post with a slave. Could this be the reason that Jordan Post went to Canada? Might he still have been looking for Enoch twenty years later? Or was he moving there to find a place more accepting of slavery as the Northeast increasingly was banning it?
But even those questions do not interest me nearly as much as this simple one: What happened to Enoch? Based on the clipping, he would have been born around 1760. If he remained free, would he have kept his first name? What last name would he have assumed? I have sent out some questions, and I still will seek out some answers. And I know that he could have been killed for running away, but here is what I want to believe:
I want to believe that Enoch went far away from Jordan, perhaps even to Canada. I want to believe that he lived a quiet life, found a wife, had children. I want to believe that Enoch’s descendants remain to this day. Perhaps I have met them and not known it. I want to believe that Enoch’s descendants each in their own way fought for justice and freedom.
Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) We are used to spiritualizing that verse as a freedom from personal sin, but God wants to free us from our social sins. We are called by God to work for justice and freedom for the ways that we have bound others in the past and present.
This means being honest and facing up to the oppression of Enoch. And it also means to continue to work for justice with and for all the hopeful descendants of Enoch. For as Fannie Lou Hamer noted, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
God, I cannot change what has happened in the past, but I can acknowledge it. And in response, I can work for change in the present so that all may indeed be free. Grant me the strength of spirit to work the justice and peace of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.