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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Religious divisions in Sumter County, South Carolina

Dabbs describes religious divisions within her husband's family while he was growing up in Sumter County, South Carolina. Dabbs explains that although the area was overwhelmingly Presbyterian, her husband's step-mother was Baptist. The anecdotes Dabbs offers in describing this are indicative of the role of religion in the South and how religious divisions played out in family interactions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, was she real religious, she had been a missionary?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. She was a Baptist. And Father's people were Presbyterian. Out here in this community, there was only one church, the Presbyterian church. Well, Mother Sudy went to church because you went to church, but nobody changed her from being Baptist inside. James had a tale that he liked to tell about his father and the way that Mother Sudy could handle him. He said that Mother Sudy could pin him with one look if she needed to and he obeyed without any question, but he could be a little abrupt with her if he wanted to. He could be a delightful person, but he had a temper like all outdoors. He talked big and threatened big and everybody liked him. Well, something happened among the Baptists, the Baptist denomination, some very responsible officer in the denomination who was very high up in the hierarchy, the treasurer of some area had absconded with ?75,000, which was just millions in those days. And all of a sudden the news broke and all of the churches everywhere knew all about it, and I've heard it so often that ?75,000 stuck in my mind from that day until this as the worst figure that you could steal, if you were going to do any steal It happened here at the same time, it was like a volcano erupting, it just blows up and everybody knows that it is evident. Well, I have a memory of people talking about that for a long, long time. I've forgotten the name of the man who did all that dastardly deed and that sort of thing, but I remember what the crime was and how much talk about it there was. James remembered that they learned about it through the newspapers, because they were, after all, Presbyterians and above all that sort of thing. [Laughter] But you didn't say that around Mother Sudy. She was mortified, she had a chip on her shoulder and felt very embarrased and humiliated because she was a Baptist and this thing had happened in the Baptist church and she was in no mood for any levity about it, at all. But they went to church one day shortly after that happened and Eugene, older than James, but still young enough to do these things, I guess, when the collection plate came around, he reached in and took out a nickel. Someone else put one in and he reached in and took it out. His mother saw what he was doing and So, when they got home, all of the family was sitting there around the dinner table and somebody told that Gene had reached in and taken a nickel out of the plate. Well, Father at one end of the table looked down to Mother at the other end and Father said, "Huh, must be a Baptist." It was the first thing that popped into his mind and he had forgotten that he wasn't supposed to to mention it. He said it and just laughed and then happened to look up and saw her face and he just froze. James said that she pinned his ears back with one look. [Laughter] He was just about to laugh and he had something in his mouth, he had taken a drink of water or something and he laughed and the water shot out. You could see it all over everything and he was so embarrassed he didn't know what to do. He wanted to laugh but had to stop right there in mid-air, but the water wouldn't stop. But he had to stop his face muscles from laughing. They were making jokes about Baptists taking money out of the collection plates. She was a Baptist all the days of her life, violently Baptist.