The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
William L. Bethel
Age 92 Years
129-31 S. Klein,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Many request have been made of me to write something of the story of my life. Until recently I have never given much consideration to these requests, for the reason that I have never thought that I had done enough in the world to warrant anything in the was of an autobiography and I hope that my life work, by reason of my present age, lies more in the future then in the past.
I was born a slave on the fourth day of May 1844, Cemmonsville, North Carolina, Forsyth County. My master's name was Josiah Bethel and the mistress's name was Eliza Bethel, and their only daughter was named Mary Bethel. Finally Mary become of age and married a man by the name of Professor Gannaway, who was a professor of Trinity College at Trinity, North Carolina. After Mr. Gannaway was married to Mary Bethel he moved from Germanton, North Carolina, where we were living, taking my mother and the rest of our family with him to Trinity College, leaving my grandmother and me with Josiah and Eliza Bethel. I was quite a pet of the mistress, and every morning and night my master would put his hand on my head and pray.
Josiah Bethel was a Methodist Preacher and of course we had to move often. We moved from Germanton, North Carolina to Greensboro, where I spent my childhood days and we lived there until the Civil War. At the age of about 18 years I went to Bristow, Virginia, enlisted in the Army, and then I went to Richmond, where we went over breast works. One of our favorite songs was: "Look over in the Valley, don't you see it lighten, looks like we are going to have a storm, but altho you are mistaken, 'tis the darky soldiers' buttons shining on the uniform." After surrender we went to Raleigh, North Carolina, where we were mustered out. I then moved to Greensboro and began working for Judge Lain, on a farm, and I worked for him 12 months and went to school at night. My meals consisted of fat meat and corn bread.
In the year of 1867, I went to Robinson County to cut turpentine boxes, and while there I met a man by the name of W. E. Harley, and we organized a school and hired a white man to tutor. The school rew so large that we were required to assist the teacher.
I left Robinson County in the year of 1870 and went back to Greenboro, North Carolina and worked in a hotel and continued my scholastic attainments. My teacher's names were Jake Nocho and Reverend Crestfield.
In 1872, I married Mrs. Fannie Elizabeth Martin, purchased a hone and one acre of land, built a frame cabin, at which place my rirst child was born, Carri Lee Bethel, (now Carrie Lee Lanier) and to the date of this writing she is living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The next year, in 1873, I entered Lincoln University, in Chester county, Pennsylvania and worked in a club for my board for Dr. Golder, who is now the President of Livingston College, Sauls, Borough, North Carolina. After working there for some time, I purchased the Club where I worked. In the year of 1876, my second child was born, William H. Bethel, who is now living in Buffalo, New York. I was graduated from Lincoln University in the year of 1882. During the same year on the 12th day of April 1882, I was licensed to preach. After receiving my certificate of licensure. I went on a mission trip to Spartanburg and Wilford, South Carolina, and organized a church at Jonesboro, and also several other churches. I lost my health at Sanford, North Carolina and then returned to Winston Salem, North Carolina, where I married Nanie L. Brown, who is now my present wife.
In 1901 I moved to Oklahoma Territory, leaving a portion of my children in Lincoln University. The first place I lived after reaching Oklahoma Territory was Kingfisher. We then moved to Anadarko, where I purchased a home and organized a Presbyterian Church and Sunday School, and also organizing Presbyterian Churches all over the Oklahoma Territory.
I came to Oklahoma City in 1904 and purchased the premises where I now reside at 129-31 South Klein Street. I also organized a church in the said city, and in the year of 1907 I received three Enabling Acts. 1st. An Enabling Act from the Presbyterians of Oklahoma to organize a Bethany Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City. 2nd. An Enabling Act from the Synod of Indian Territory to organize a Presbytery of Rental at Oklahoma City. 3rd. An Enabling Act from the General Assembly at Columbus, Ohio, where I was Commissioner from the Presbytery of Rental to organize a Synod of Canadian. At the general assembly, Des Moines, Iowa, I was called on to give the Benediction.
However, it is impossible to remember every and all the incidents that happened from the days of my childhood until now, but I have given the most important things, that is the things that I think would be inspiring to some one else.
I am the father of six children, and I put forth every effort possible to educate them, and I will not attempt to write what they are doing and their whereabouts. I have already mentioned theretofore where two of them are. and I might add that my children were graduated and received their degrees at Lincoln University, where I finished. Reverend Martin L. Bethel is now teaching at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. Doctor Isaac N. R. Bethel lives in Detroit Michigan, Mrs. Bessie E. Smith is teaching in the grade schools of Oklahoma City, and Dr. Allen Paul Bethel, druggist, also lives in Oklahoma City.
I am now the honourable retired and Pastor Emeritus of the Bethany Presbyterian Church.
Give the Black Man a Chance By William L. Bethel. "God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over all creatures."
Gen. 1:27 So God created man in his own image in the image of God created he him, male and female create he them.
Col. 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Eph. 4"24 And that ye put on the new man which after God, created in righteousness and true holiness.
Gen. 1:28 And said unto them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth<
Give the Black Man a Chance
Fleecy locks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit nature's claim:
Skins may differ but affection
Dwells in white and black the Same
Deem our nation brutes no longer,
Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regard and stronger
Than the colour of our kind.
Slaves of old, whose sordid dealings
Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings,
Ere you proudly question ours!
Shall we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Shall we to me benighted,
The lamp of life deny!
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
To love god with all your heart, with all your strength and mind, makes a find nation, community, fine family, fine Christian, the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God
Rev. William L. Bethel, Pastor Emeritus
Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03