The Slighted Vow; or, An Incident Upon the Mississippi
American Baptist Publication Society
On Feb. 2, 1896, a fire broke out at the American Baptist Publication Society building, destroying much of the collection. The following June, Samuel B. Colgate donated his personal collection of Baptist documents to Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. This short testimonial piece was published by the Society in its early years, before the fire. In addition to its religious elements, this is a travel memoir. The framed narrative of Judge N. chronicles his journey from Alabama to Mississippi and Ohio, mentioning Natchez, Pittsburg, Wheeling and New Orleans. The narrator describes the river and their method of travel. This includes three footnotes of interest. The first explains their vessel, an "ark" which is described as "a flat and wide boat made of rough hewn timber, to float with the current upon the Western waters. They are generally made for a single voyage down the river, and, after the freight they bear is discharged, they are ignominiously doomed to be broken up for firewood, or to build a temporary shanty" (p. 7). The second footnote suggestively describes "Sawyers": "Sawyers are tall trees whose roots, in their voyage down the river, catch on the bottom and thus anchor them, while the tops, reaching just above the surface, bow most gracefully as the waters rush by them. They are very dangerous to steam boats going up stream. Striking them with great force, they run them through their bottom, and sink almost immediately" (pp. 9-10). The final footnote: "Wholly sunken trees are called snags" (p. 10). The footnotes and the detailed descriptions of sights and sounds along the river make this more than a simple religious tract. The religious element to the story is simple. On their return home, a near accident causes the Judge's brother, Caleb, to promise devotion to God if he should live. But Caleb's heart does not follow his words. Even upon a chance meeting with another man of faith, an early Puritan minister of New England, Caleb denies the vow he made on the ark. Coming back to the present, our narrator, a friend of Judge N., meets Caleb and relates his unfortunate death, which occurs before he can repent. Predates Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" by at least 25 five years. A piece of desirable Americana, this petite text offers a glimpse into the religious and regional history of the Mississippi. World Cat locates only one copy in the New York Society Archives and offers an approximate date of 1841.
Publisher: American Baptist Publication Society
Date Published: ca. 1841
Place Published: Philadelphia
Dust Jacket: No
Jacket Condition: n/a
Details: 36 p. 15 cm. B&w frontispiece. Hardcover has dark cloth spine with marbled boards. Spine worn with chipped spine label. Corners bumped and boards rubbed bare on fore-edge. Wormhole in front hinge. Owner's signature on a front endpaper. Foxing.