[unknown] Report of the Freedmen's Aid Society of Quincy, Ill.
During the last year it has become apparent to every thinking mind that among the many demands upon the Benevolent Public was one which was destined to become paramount to all others. Slowly but steadily it has dawned upon the nation, that the weight of the "the cause of all its perils" which had lain like an incubus for the last century must be removed, and when on the morning of the first of January 186[unknown] the glad pean of "Freedom to the opposed," rang through hill and valley, it was welcomed by the masses of the people as being the "first bold step towards bringing under subjection the traitors to our country."
Thousands embraced the opportunity to shake off the shackles which had bound them, never to be re-united, and with their eye fixed upon the North star came to claim the charities of the Loyal people of a Free State.
Again, the offer of the three hundred dollar bounty was an inducement to slaveholders to enlist their able bodied men and send their infirm men, feeble women and helpless children across the river to find support as best they could. On the first cold days of last autumn persons would find these people sitting on their doorsteps, or standing in groups at street corners, hungry, almost naked, and in a strange land. Their hearts were pained beyond measure, and it was found necessary to have some organized means, in order to meet the constantly increasing demands. Accordingly a call was published in the Whig & Republican of Dec. 1st in which all persons interested in that unfortunate class of people called Contrabands were earnestly de[unknown]ed to meet at the rooms of the Union League the following day.
Quite a number of ladies and gentlemen were present on that occasion, and it was resolved to form a Freedmen's Aid Society, and after the adoption of a Constitution and By-Laws, a permanent organization was effected by the election of the following officers:
Mrs. S. H. Emery, President.
Mrs. J. K. Van Doorn, Vice President.
Miss Alice Asbury, Recording Secretary.
Mrs. J. B. Roberts, Corresponding.
Mrs. A. O. Grubb, Treasurer.
Mrs. Littlefield, Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Kingman, Mrs. Wilcox, Mrs. Holton and Mrs. Langdon, Board of Managers.
Messrs. Emery, Stevenson, Van Doorn and Engle an Advisory Committee.
Upon the resignation of Mrs. Van Doorn, Mrs. Wilcox was elected to fill her place, and upon that of Miss Asbury, Mrs. J. B. Roberts was chosen to that office, thus combining the offices of Corresponding and Recording Secretary.
The plan adopted by the Society was to appoint visiting committees, who were to ascertain the real wants and condition of the people, and make reports at each weekly meeting.
It was found necessary to procure a building, in addition to those already employed to shelter them, and the large building in East Quincy, known as the Institute, was rented, in which were placed ten or fifteen families. This building was visited by a committee of ladies each week, the Colored Asylum by one, and one was appointed for the city at large, called the Outside Committee.
In this way they became acquainted with their individual wants, listened to their tales of sorrow, and their perils of escape, sympathized with them in their separation from relatives, attended their sick and buried their dead.
The 29th regiment U. S. colored infantry being stationed here was the means of bringing more colored people here than to any other point on the river above St. Louis, for fathers, husbands and sons being in the army, it was felt protection would be afforded them. A colored hospital was established on Broadway, but as the regiment had not been mustered in it could not be recognized by the Government. Upon visiting it we found between thirty and forty sick at one time, some of them lying on the floor, with not a bed, pillow or sheet in the institution. We were able to furnish them with some things of this kind, and through their kind and attentive surgeon to ameliorate their condition by providing them with palatable food, not to the extent we could have wished, but according to our ability. We would thank the officers of that regiment for their kind assistance whenever required, and for the proceeds of a concert given by them in March.
The Society has endeavored to meet all demands made upon it, but at times has had to struggle hard for the means. The extreme cold weather, the high prices of fuel, together with a great amount of sickness, have rendered the labors of the ladies much more arduous, and greatly increased the expenditures of the society, but they feel amply repaid by the knowledge, that numbers must have perished but for their aid. Several times when our funds were almost exhausted the question was raised — What shall we do? When will we get means? "Trust in the Lord and do good" would be the answer, and in several instances we have been surprised by help from most unexpected sources.
We feel that no exertion has been spared or means left unemployed in our power, to alleviate the sufferings or lessen the sorrows of the unfortunate people. They have come to us in all conditions. The helpless and infirm, even nursing babies without mothers. Others mangled by the lash of the overseers, unable to help themselves for weeks. Unlike the Israelites of old, they did not "find favor in the eyes of the people," and could not borrow jewels of gold and jewels of silver," but were frequently stripped of all their little possessions, save the rags that covered them.
It has been a primary object of the society not only to supply the physical wants, but to elevate their social and moral condition, to enable them to become self-sustaining, and to teach them to enjoy the great blessing of freedom; and although the burden may seem heavy for a time, we feel that it is not to be permanent. They will soon be able to provide for themselves. And when we are met with the constant objection that they are indolent and dishonest, we have one answer to make, "It is the natural effect of the peculiar institution, which we hope to eradicate in time."