And so I photocopied anything and everything that minutely corresponded to the history of Free Negroes in Craven County from the Colonial Period to the present. When I returned to the North Carolina Room one day, about three years into my research, the local history librarian said, "I thought you'd just about exhausted everything we had." Yes, I thought so too...but there's always some new connection...laws and Negro Codes and Jim Crow; transportation, railroads and boating; wars and battles; elections, voting and Census records; geography and geologic formations, land and platting; turpentine distillation, Craven Corn distillation and logging. . . finally religion and churches.
After pulling the boxes and sifting through the files, I was surprised to find that I had only one file labeled "Church History." This is what I discovered there:
- "Black Religion In North Carolina From Colonial Times to 1900," in The Heritage of Blacks in North Carolina, Volume I, 1900, pp. 75-80.
- "The AME Zion Church celebrates its bicentennial," by Lisa Jones Townsel; [online].<http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n12_v51/ai_18736489/print> Available 1 June 2007, 3 pages.
- "Historic African American Churches in Craven County, North Carolina: 1864-1947," National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, prepared by M. Ruth Little, Ph.D.
- The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, by William J. Walls. Charlotte, NC: A.M.E.Zion Publishing House, 1974.
- Francis Asbury in North Carolina: The North Carolina Portions of The Journal of Francis Asbury. Nashville, TN: The Parthenon Press.
- History of Methodism in North Carolina, From 1772 To the Present Time , by W. L. Grissom. Nashville, TN: Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, 1905.
- "Some Aspects of Negro Life in North Carolina During the Civil War," by B. H. Nelson, in The North Carolina Historical Review, pp. 143-167.
- "The History of Piney Grove African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1864 thru 1992," by Eilatan. [online]. <http://pineygroveamez.tripod.com/history.html> Available 1 June 2007.
- A Guide to Researching the History of Religion in North Carolina. UNC University Libraries. [online]. <http://lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/study/religion.html> Available 14 February 2010.
- Several articles related to pulpwood, timber and lumber companies. . . How did they get in there?!
Combining these sources with the clues from emails I had recently collected, I have just enough information to barely construct a loose interpretation of what religious life was like in the isolated area of North Harlowe, Craven County, North Carolina from Colonial days through Reconstruction.
So much information lies dormant in dusty rooms, shut off from the world because of budgetary cuts. My only hope is to connect with someone who has viewed the sources I have yet to seek and hope that they will be willing to share information.
In the meantime, I believe I must go with what I have and begin the writing.