Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Who will pray for us now?"

On a hot day in July of 1785, a little baby was born in Morris County, New Jersey. There was nothing remarkable about this event - babies are born every day. But this little baby would die 65 years later, leaving behind a remarkable legacy.

You see, that little baby was Phebe Ann Jacobs, a little baby born into slavery. While still a child she was given to Mrs. Wheelock, the wife of the president of Dartmouth College. Mrs. Wheelock wanted Phebe to be an attendant for her daughter Maria. So Maria and Phebe grew up together. Maria eventually married a Mr. Allen who would become the president of Bowdowin College in Brunswick, Maine. Phebe accompanied her mistress to Brunswick in 1820 and remained with them until the death of Maria - after which Phebe chose to live alone. The reason she preferred to live alone was so "there would be no hindrances to prayer and praise at any time, where she could converse with her Savior all day long".

She supported herself by taking in washing and ironing for the students of Bowdoin College. No one ever heard her complain or fault find but always seemed contented and happy. She was never absent from attending the services of the church, but was always seen sitting in the farthest pew, with her head bowed in secret prayer. Many times a day she would go to her bedroom to kneel and pray. It was not an uncommon occurrence for her to arise at midnight and pray. In 1834 a 6 a.m. prayer meeting was scheduled. When the minister arrived to open the doors, he found Phebe had been there on the door steps for more than an hour praying. Her life came to represent a prayer, a hymn of praise. Who can tell how many lives were touched with her prayers?

Phebe's humility drew people to her as she continued her life, doing her own work in her own humble, quiet way. Every morning she would arise and start a fire to begin her day. She had given instructions to her nearest neighbor that if no smoke was ever seen coming from her chimney that she would be dead.
One night Phebe went to look in on the wife of her minister who was about to die. As Phebe was standing near someone asked, "Phebe, don't you wish you were going home soon?" "Yes, indeed I do" was her answer. The wife of the minister died that night and the next morning no smoke was seen from Phebe's chimney. Her body was found in bed, her eyes calmly closed, her Bible and glasses by the bedside.

The following Sunday, Phebe's remains were brought to the church building. A large assembly was there gathered from all the churches in the area. The minister gave the eulogy even though he had just lost his own wife. He said "if his own wife had been permitted to choose a companion to accompany her through the dark valley of death, she would have chosen Phebe."
At the funeral of Phebe Ann Jacobs, there was no relative, no kin. The woman who was born into slavery and lived in humble obscurity was borne from the church by the senior officers of Bowdoin College and a former governor of Maine. Her coffin was followed by the president of the college and his daughters who had traveled 200 miles to testify their respect and affection for Phebe.

Afterwards it was heard "Who will pray for us now? Now that Phebe is gone? We have lost Phebe's prayers" What a legacy this one woman left!! Can the same be said of us?


  1. Hi, I am from Denmark, and found your blog, it is very beautiful!

  2. HI Marianne:
    So glad you like my blog - I notice that you paint beautiful fairies - I love fairies! Welcome and come back often. God bless - Mary