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Letter from Rev. James Marye Jr. to Rev. John Waring (September 25, 1764)

In a letter to the Reverend John Waring, dated September 25, 1764, the Reverend James Marye Jr., of Saint Thomas Parish, Orange County, suggests that a school for the children of enslaved African Americans be opened in Fredericksburg. Waring was the secretary of the Associates of Dr. Bray, the English philanthropic group that funded a similar school in Williamsburg. Marye's father, the Reverend James Marye Sr., ministered to Saint George's Parish, Spotsylvania County, which included Fredericksburg.

Transcription from Original

Revd. Sir

I have now before me yours dated 6 March 1764, wherein you complain I had not informed you of the Receipt of a Box of Books, which I now tell you did come to Hand, or one at least is come to Hand, if that is all you have sent. I likewise now inform you, as I did in my last, that I divided the Books in two Libraries.

I mentioned something in my last relative to a School for the Instruction of Negroes, & told you I did not think one in the Country would answer on Account fo the Remoteness of the Inhabitants from each other, which Opinion I still continue in, but mentioned a Possibility of it's succeeding in a growing Town, to which all in these Parts trade, & you seem much disturbed that I neglected mentioning the Names of that Town; had I been certain that Evin's Map of Virginia, or Jefferson's & Fy's never fell in your Hands, where you might have seen that all that live in Orange County might be reasonable supposed to trade to the Town nearest to them, which said Town is 45 Miles from where I live, & is called Fredericksburg. However I acknowledge it was an Omission in me not to have mentioned the Name in my last. But I now inform you the Name of the Town I meant, was Fredericksburg on Rappahannock River. I likewise inform you that being in the said Town since I wrote you, I made Inquiry what Number of small Negroes would be sent, should a School be set up there for the Purpose, & could not learn it would be possible to get above four or five or thereabouts, & they not to go constantly, but only at spare Times when it suited their Owners.

You desire an Account of the Number of Negroes in my Parish, which I cant, with any Certainty, inform you but guess there is a thousand grown ones or thereabouts, & at least the like Quantity of young ones. As to the Number that attend Divine Service on Sundays it is greater at some Churches than others, as they are placed nearer to where Quantities of the Negroes live, but in general there is about 30 or 40 and on some Sundays I have seen 60 or more.

You must understand there are great Quantities of those Negroes imported here yearly from Africa, who have Languages peculiar to themselves, who are here many years before they understand English; & great Numbers there are that never do understand it, well Enough to reap any Benefit from what is said in Church which was my Reason for mentioning, as I did in some former Letter, that the distributing religious Tracts to the Owners would be a more probable Way of Success, as those being wrote in the most plain intelligible Style, they might by their Owners be made in Time to understand what was said to them.

But you must suppose it to be impossible for me to go from House to House, to instruct a thousand Negroes perhaps or more, some of which would take me a Week to make them understand one single Sentence.

The Number of Negroe Communicants is very small not exceeding half a Dozen in the Parish or thereabouts. All that understand English, & that are but tolerably convenient to Church, bring their Children to be baptized. The Name of the Minister of the Parish in which the said Town of Fredericksburg lies, is my Father the Revd. James Marye who is now very aged being upwards of 70 years of Age. I have now given you Every Information that I can recollect, if I have omitted any please to inform me in your next and will Endeavour to satisfie you in any thing in my Power, pray present my best Respects to the Associates I am, Your Most Obedient Humble Servant

Jas. Marye Junior

Virginia Orange County Rappahannock River

September 25th. 1764