“He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
If my versification of the FEAR seemed craven and cringing, you may be heartened by this story of swift and righteous retribution in 1838. It took place in the town of Washington, now abandoned, about twenty miles south of where I sit. The narrator is Zachariah “Wildcat” Morrell, an itinerant Baptist preacher on the Texas frontier. If the Fear does not prompt you to sell your garment for a sword, it should perhaps prompt you to sell it for a hickory walking stick with a buckhorn handle. The conspiracy of “fiends and mockers” strikes me as a vivid metaphor, the chicken and its choker not excepted.
“This was the first meeting of days ever held in the town, and it was rather more than the fiends and mockers could willingly submit to. The house in which they proposed to hold the meeting was a vacated billiard-room on Main Street, with a long gallery in front. On the second night of the meeting, there was a general attendance of the citizens, loafers and gamblers of the place. We soon discovered that the disturbers of our peace on former occasions were present, with the intention of interfering with the worship of the congregation, without the fear of God or man before their eyes. A man was stationed outside of the house, just behind where the preacher stood, with a hen in his arms. While the preacher was lining out his hymn, he would hold the chicken by the neck. When the congregation would sing, he would make it squall. A large copper-colored negro man was stationed on the gallery in front, with some twenty or more of these lewd fellows around him, partly intoxicated. When the congregation sang and the hen squalled, the negro, acting under orders, would put his head in at the window and shout at the top of his voice, ‘Glory to God!’ The response from outside was given, ‘Amen and amen!’
I was sitting near by the window from whence the disturbance came; my wife and daughter were nearby me. I arose and stood by the window with the walking-cane in my hand that I had brought from Tennessee, made of hickory, with a buckhorn head. My bosom heaved with holy indignation, and as the negro put his head into the window the second time, as the congregation sang and the hen squalled, I struck him just above the left eye, making a scar that he carried to his grave . . . . After the stroke with my cane, they were peremptorily ordered away, with the statement that there were more dangerous weapons than the stick behind. It had been customary with us, since the Indians killed two of our men during religious service at Nashville [Texas] the year before, to take our weapons with us to church, as well as to other places. Some usually stood guard while others worshipped. There was no further disturbance of consequence until the services were over.”
Z. N. Morrell, Fruits and Flowers from the Wilderness: Or Thirty-Six Years in Texas and Two Winters in Honduras(Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1873), pp. 82-83.