Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday - Watch Night Service

Watch Night Service

There was a time when I dreaded New Year’s Eve because it meant being drug to church one more time. Don’t get me wrong, I love church and my faith has gotten me through many a difficult times but to be there on New Year’s Eve, uggh!

As a child mom, who was Baptist and who more times than not I went to church with, loaded granddad and me in the car and headed to church. Even in my adult years, mom and / or dad could often guilt me into going with them, especially mom with her “There’s no other place I would rather be to bring in the new year.” Last year, I finally understood what she meant as for the first time in my life I was at Watch Night Service because that is where I wanted and needed to be.

Before moving to Colorado for awhile, I always thought Watch Night Service was something everyone did but during my adult life, I’ve learned that Watch Night service is truly an African-American tradition and perhaps only observed in the southern states.

The tradition of bringing in the year in church appears to have it’s origins in the Moravian community, but the significance in the African-American community can be traced back to December 31, 1862, “Freedom’s Eve.” President Abraham Lincoln in his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, dated September 22, 1862, had indicated that the slaves would be freed on January 1, 1863.

So with new found vigor both in my research and the reflections on the history of our celebration, tonight when I go to Watch Night Service, I know I’ll think and wonder about them, my ancestors, as I’m already doing now, and about the thoughts that raced through their minds as they anticipated freedom. I’ll think about my 3rd great grandmother, Eliza Stovall, at the age of abt. 50, possibly with her children and grand children by her side, giving praise that she lived long enough to see this day.

So, in remembrance of all my known direct line and collateral ancestors that endured slavery, roll call:

Direct Line of known enslaved ancestors

 Paternal Ancestors

Issac Ewell – 2nd great grandfather, 1840 – unk
(date of death bwt 1870 and 1880)
Pennie Ewell – 2nd great grandmother, 1840 – unk

Maternal Ancestors

Eliza Stoval – 3rd great grandmother, abt. 1810 – unk
(date of death bwt. 1880 and 1900)
Wyatt Rome – 2nd great grandfather, 1840 – unk
(date of death after 1910)
Alice Rome – 2nd great grandmother, 1836 – unk
(date of death bwt. 1900 and 1910)
Matilda Hosch – 2nd great grandmother, 1840 – unk
Monroe Barto Hosch – great grandfather, 1862 – unk
(date of death bwt 1890 and 1900)
Jasper Pierce – 2nd great grandfather 1850 - unk
Jane Pierce – 2nd great grandmother, 1844 – unk


  1. Mavis,

    VERY interesting post, you just taught me something. Thank you so much for sharing this important part of your history.

    Happy New Year, enjoy your Watch Night Service, I'll be thinking of you.

  2. Carol,

    As always, thanks for stopping by. Even though I've observed it most of my life, it's only been within the past few years that I myself learned the history behind the celebration. I'm not even sure that most observers know the history behind it.

  3. Mavis,

    Thanks for a great post. I went to watch night service, but did not know until reading your post the tradition behind it. Thanks for informing and inspiring. Many BLESSINGS for 2010.


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