Part 3 - Prequel to Timothy Anderson Jr.’s Soldier’s Story.
The Ku Klux Klan was established in 1866 in opposition to post-Civil War Reconstruction in the South. Their targets were Republicans, both white and black. Members of the KKK included a cross section of white Southern people, including former slave holders, Confederate veterans, lawyers, doctors, and even pastors. The Klan evolved into a white-supremacy group, determined to undermine the Federal laws that provided for economic and political equality for all blacks.
For over a decade and a half after the end of the Civil War, the voice of the KKK was heard loud and clear via the ballot boxes and its goal of white supremacy was yet again realized, through the election of Democratic state representatives and senators throughout all the southern states. The South’s state legislatures railed against the Federal Reconstruction laws by writing and passing segregationist laws. But the Klan’s victories were not passive victories. They were victories fraught with violence, intimidation, lynching, and burnings. “What you see, you learn; what you learn, you practice; what you practice, you become; what you become has consequences, by Ernie Larsen.” Seven black men elected to legislative positions, during the state constitutional conventions under the Reconstruction Acts of 1867-1868, were murdered and ten percent of the black men elected during this time were persecuted, in various ways, by the KKK.
In the very early years of Reconstruction, after leaving the school at Salisbury, SC, it was Matthew’s deep conviction that “what we have always believed, namely, that color or Negro prejudice, is not the result of an innate or natural antipathy toward the Negro because of the color of his skin, but wholly because of his past and his condition. Lift them out of this condition, let him become educated, and refined, let his moral standard be high and prejudice against him because he is a Negro will have vanished.” Throughout his life, Matthew never let go of this theory. But if Matthew had the advantage of hindsight, he might have also initiated a program where blacks and whites would have sat down, face-to-face, and talked about prejudice, in an effort to educate whites about the injustices endured by the black race, since the first slave ship landed on the eastern shore of America.
During the 1870s when the Southern Democrats were making inroads in electing legislators to state legislatures, Rev. Matthew Anderson graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1877, followed by post-graduate work at Yale Divinity College, New Haven¸ CT. When Matthew left Yale in 1879, his plans were to go back home and visit his father and family, and then return to the South to continue his missionary work with former slaves by teaching in a school for blacks. But Divine Intervention touched Matthew Anderson’s life once again.
From the time all of Timothy Anderson Sr.’s children were small, he brought them up to be socially and politically conscious. “What you see, you learn; what you learn, you practice; what you practice, you become; what you become has consequences. Ernie Larsen”
From Page 55 of Matthew’s book, “And since from my earliest childhood, I had been made to feel the wrongs of the slave and the thralldom which rested upon the colored people, free and slave, throughout this country, from anti-slavery books, papers and speeches which were being daily read in my family, and the prayers which were offered up by my father, I most naturally, when called upon to choose a profession, chose that profession, in which I could accomplish the most for humanity and especially for my own people.”
Matthew would never consider himself just a pastor of the Gospel; he was also a social worker. “I could never believe, that the work of a Gospel minister was simply preaching, in the commonly accepted sense of that term, but that it included everything, which tended to the development of the whole man, intellectual, moral, and spiritual…”
Instead of going straight home from Yale, Matthew stopped in Philadelphia to visit Dr. John Reeve, who was the senior pastor of Lombard Central Presbyterian Church, in Philadelphia. In an article written by William Allison about Matthew Anderson, he wrote, “Thousands of African Americans were streaming north to escape the Jim Crow system and take advantage of America’s Industrial Revolution following the Civil War, only to be disappointed by inadequate housing and limited employment options.” The “Socially conscious white leaders (of which Reeve was one), trying to cross a chasm of suspicion, were failing to reach the city’s African American population.” Reeve was convinced that Matthew would be able to achieve more and do more for his race in Philadelphia than in Salisbury, SC. Reeve challenged Rev. Matthew Anderson to take over Lombard’s Gloucester Mission church project in Northwest Philadelphia, for African Americans. And so he did, establishing what would become the Berean Enterprises ~ The Berean Presbyterian Church (1880), The Berean Savings and Loan Association (1884), and the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School (1889). This was a phenomenal feat, accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. Of the Berean Church, Matthew said, “The chief aim of the Berean Church will be to cause men to act instead of being acted upon…”
Berean Enterprise, Philadelphia, PA
Matthew lived by ten personal rules. Rule nine: That we fear no man, nor call any man master, but be kindly affectioned towards all men, and under no circumstances to allow an insult to pass unresented which was intended to belittle our manhood, not because of ourselves personally, but because of the race with which we are identified, and which to stigmatize would be the real object of the insult.”
Upon professionally soliciting, at his home, the white president of the Pennsylvania Railroad for a donation to purchase a lot, on which to build the Berean Presbyterian Church, the railroad executive, “… rushed to the door and threw it open, and then in the most brutish manner ordered us out, at the same time raising his foot to add emphasis to his demand.” Matthew went home and wrote an eloquently, fiery letter in late Victorian prose. Putting him “in that class of white men, of whom there is a large number in this country, who look with contempt upon every man who is clad in a canopy of black, and who feel that no Negro has any rights which they are bound to respect; men whose souls are so small that five hundred of them can dance upon the point of a cambric needle. For no man would ruthlessly insult a gentleman who calls upon him at his home unless he has a soul of microscopic dimensions. Hoping to hear from you at your convenience, I am Yours with regret, MATTHEW ANDERSON, Pastor Berean Presbyterian Church.” Matthew did receive a letter of apology and a donation for the church. The two men eventually became friends for the rest of their lives.
In 2010, the congregation of the Berean Presbyterian Church
in northwest Philadelphia celebrated its 130 anniversary.
The congregation outgrew the first church building established by
Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson and moved to Broad & Diamond Streets
(across from the campus of Temple University).
This image shows the inside of the current sanctuary of the
Berean Presbyterian congregation.
Matthew not only lived by Rule Nine, he also instilled that same kind of self-respect into the black men and women in his congregation and those in the industrial school. Matthew taught by example. He was a well-known civil rights leader in his time, a social reformer, a humanitarian, and a renowned pastor, not just within the Presbyterian denomination, but throughout Philadelphia; Pennsylvania; and the Nation. Matthew was a visionary, more than three generations ahead of his time. In a 1902 speech, he wrote, “… when the American people will not ask whether the workman is white or black, but whether he has the qualifications and the skill to do the work required as well… as any other man.” Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson did not live to see this day.
Matthew’s other nine rules (paraphrased) were. One – Never undertake anything without first studying it in all its different phases, with the Spirit’s guidance. Two – Don’t allow any adverse influences whatever to divert us from our purpose. Three – Present all work in its true light, even though the truth might tend to prejudice against the work. Four – Use all means (temporal, intellectual, and spiritual) to insure the success of the work. Five – In all our work, look toward future needs. Six – That we be guided always by the great and immortal principles of divine truth, by one common Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. “That while by accidents of birth and the unholy sentiment of the country, our labors are confined principally to the people of the colored race, we should nevertheless regard ourselves, ministers of Christ, since in God’s sight there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all related by ties of consanguinity, having sprung from common parents.” Seven – Hold sacred the truths of the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man toward our fellowman. Eight – Be perfectly frank and honest in all our work and carry out the principles of the Golden Rule. Ten – Listen to the criticisms and advice of friends; acknowledge our failures and faults; always apologize to others for injuries I’ve done to them.
It was at Oberlin that Matthew met his future wife Caroline Virginia Still, daughter of William Still, a famous captain on the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia. Caroline became one of the first African American women to graduate from Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia. Matthew and Caroline worked hand-in hand within their neighborhood in northwest Philadelphia ministering to their congregants and neighbors in a way no other man or woman had done so. They had three daughters, Helen, Maud, and Margaret. Caroline died June 3, 1919. Matthew’s second wife was Blanche Williams.
Matthew Anderson was a member of Pennsylvania Peace Society, the Negro Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and was a delegate in 1903 to the Universal Peace Society convention in Rouen, France. Matthew was asked to speak before many groups and societies and he wrote numerous papers, among which are: The Opportunity of the Negro in Domestic Service; The Black Man’s Side; Intensive Report of the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School; The Presbyterian Church Must Stand by its Doctrinal Standards as to Race; and of course his book Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro.
Matthew’s friends and contemporaries included Frederic Douglass, William Still, John Wannamaker, and Col. Alexander K. McClure (Chambersburg, PA). Wannamaker and McClure served on the board of directors of the Industrial School. Upon Matthew’s death, Dr. Francis Grimke, black Princeton classmate of Matthew’s, said, “He never seemed to realize the fact that he was growing old that his life’s task was drawing to a close. He had work, he said, the last time I talked with him, that he wanted to do, and that it would require at least fifteen more years to do it. So that when death came to him, it found his mind, his heart, his whole being taken up with the thought, not of rest, but of work, work, hard, hard, work.”
It was a remarkable and astounding, 80-year journey, from the “Old Ridge” in Antrim Township to Princeton Theological Seminary, to College Avenue, Philadelphia. Matthew Anderson was the eighth of ten children, born on January 25, 1848. He was an exceptional human being, whose life was always touched by the hand of God. The fact that he became the first African American to live on the campus of Princeton’s Theological Seminary is testimony to the very fiber of who Matthew Anderson was. He didn’t stop there; all of his life’s work was spent in Philadelphia – the antithesis of Ridge Road in Antrim Township, and he was just as home in urban Philadelphia as he was in Antrim and Greencastle. The Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson died January 11, 1928, 14 days shy of 80 years. He is buried in Eden Cemetery, Collingdale, Delaware County, PA.
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