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Savannah Port Society (founded 1843)

Location of Records: Georgia Historical Society, Savannah 

Extent of Records: Manuscript Volume of Minutes of the Board 1843-1873

Extracts from the records

Article 2

The object of this society shall be to furnish seamen with the regular evangelical ministration of the gospel and such other moral and religious instruction as may be found practicable

runs the Bethel church, first meeting November 21, 1843 at ipc

Capt Wm Crabtree (pres)

Joseph George (rec sec)

Joseph Felt (tres)

Members from each denomination

Rev Strobel

Joseph Felt

John Stoddard

R A Lewis

Joseph George

Eward Wiley

Benjamin Snider

Green Fleetwood

Thomas Clark

John Postell

Edward Paderford

Samuel Philbrick

Jospeh Cumming

John J Maxwell

Michael Dillon

M Hopkins

S C Dunning

S B Williams


John Lewis

John Holt

William W Walsh

Robert Goodwin

John Ingersoll

Dr William Curruthers

J R Wilder

Rev Clark

Rev Edward Neufville

Formal incorporation by state in An Act to Incorporate the Savannah Port Society Dec 22, 1843 (copy in mins Jan 22, 1844)

Dec 7, 1843

They send a committee to each sailors boarding house to get seamen to go to church

Dec 12, 1843

'report that they had been respectfully received, the attendance at the church was encouraging?

Dec 26, 1843 - attendance = satisfactory

Jan 2, 1844- attendance = fair

Jan 9, 1844 - attendance = acceptable

Jan 22,1844 - very satisfactory

Jan 30, 1844 - attendance = larger than usual

June 3, 1844

1st annual report

?Among the benevolent enterprises of the present day those which have for their object the moral and religious culture of seamen are eminently conspicuous, it belongs to the age in which we live to have singled out this almost proscribed class of our fellow beings and to have brought to bear upon them the united sympathies of the Christian and the philanthropist?

says it was marked by ?complete harmony? among the various churches- the ministers preach in turn until regular preacher appointed; Mariner?s church originally the Penfield Mariner?s Church (after Josiah Penfield who desired to establish a Port Society but died before it happened)

board pleased to see ?the rough and unlettered seamen bowing humbly before his maker in the lowest attitude of prayer?

January 13, 1845

second annual report

directresses of the Female Seamen?s Friend Society invited to attend

thinks ?benevolent exertions have so far been blessed?; FSFS ?in whose hands are the ladies? contributions, have very generously undertaken to furnish the house with all thinks needful for domestic operations?. Says problem for Savannah is that most ships stop en route - so sailors are not paid like they are at the end of a voyage.

January 14, 1845

agree to confer with FSFS about a sailor?s boarding house

January 21, 1845

Sailor?s house on Jefferson/Bay rented off Michael Dillon for $300

February 4, 1845

reports that FSFS ?have been very active and efficient in the furnishing and fitting up of the house?

responsibility of Superintendent to ?hold out every proper and reasonable inducement for the inmates of the house to attend divine worship on the Sabbath? - but he?s allowed to charge them rent and take up to five non-sailors as boarders

November 4, 1845

ask FSFS ?how far they may feel disposed to taken upon themselves the management of the house?

November 11, 1845

resolved to ?restrict the co-operation of the Ladies to the domestic managementof the house? - but they recommend appointing a superintendent

January 12, 1846

3rd annual report

?the attendance of seamen generally has been moderate, yet not so small at any time as to discourage the friends of the cause from continuing their exertions?

says work of Bethel is ?missionary ground?; hopes Savannahians are not ?weary of well doing?

Sailor?s home under joint management with FSFS, who concentrated on ?the fitting up of the house and superintending in particular the internal management of the same?

not many in the home because it isnew and ?the active opposition constantly made by common sailor boarding housekeepers, whose pecuniary interests depend in a great measure upon the suppression of the sailor?s home and for the accomplishment of which active runners, as they are called, are employed to decoy and seduce the poor sailor? - recommend appointment of superintendent 

April 8, 1846

application from FSFS to take Sailor?s home off hands of Port Soc and employ Capt Parker as superintendent. They also will pay the rent - PS agrees as long as they confirm that the FSFS can afford this and wont leave their funds ?too scanty?

January 11, 1847

4th Annual Report

?Amid the general falling away of interest in the benevolent object of the day it is no great matter of surprise that the cause of the seamen should suffer among others and that the zeal and warmth manifested at the formation of this society should in some measure have passed away or merged itself in objects that have more of novelty to recommend them. The spirit of true philanthropy, however, is not extinct, and the sailor has yet his friend among you? - appeals to ?liberality? of Savannahians

acknowledges that they need a long term preacher - so that continuity exists for sailors returning year on year (Hutchings pastor 1846-1859)

states that sailor?s home now under management of Female SFS (from end Nov 1846)

February 2, 1847

Ladies Society help with establishing Thomas Hutchings in Savannah, provide him with a carpet

All shipmasters to be asked to contribute towards building of Mariners church

June 15, 1847

board recommends establishment of Marine church

seamen have to repeat confession of faith and the covenant to get membership

December 6, 1847

preacher Thomas Hutchings and Wm Parker (keeper of sailors home) have to sign declaration putting aside national and religious differences to create a new ?moral and religious nation?

January 10, 1848

5th Annual Report

?Benevolence, however is immortal, it existed in the eternal mind ere the world was, and will survive the perishable relay of mortality. It finds a fitting depository in the bosom of the humble follower of Christ.?

Says lots of charities provide temporal relief ?but how much more worthy is that charity that seeks the good of immortal souls?

stress that they are blind to ?Sectarian visions? ie ecumenical

request more money so that society income can be ?placed on a more permanent footing?

manager of sailor?s home ?report that for the past year he has entertained over 400 seamen at the house most of whom have been temperate men and many of them on the total abstinence principle?

also housed 25 shipwrecked seamen; $70-$80 spent on support of sick and indigent seamen ?The immediate oversight and direction of the sailor?s home is vested in a company of ladies of this city which association is known as the Female Seaman?s Friends Society who are entitled to much praise for their constant and careful attention to the duty under their charge.

May 29, 1848

ladies fair raises $412

October 31, 1848

unspecified complaint by Mr and Mrs Marquis vs Thomas Hutchings, he asks board to inquire

November 3, 1848

case vs TH dismissed ?the testimony of Mrs Marquis not being sufficiently authenticated to authorize them to put credence in it? - TH told want of proof

March 7, 1849

ladies fair raises $555

December 3, 1850

ladies fair raises $309

March 5, 1851

report ?that certain ladies were about getting up a fair in aid of the funds of the society to beheld on the 15th April next?

?Whereas the objects of the Mariner?s Church and the Seaman?s Home are intimately connected, and that the proper management of the latter is essential to the success of the former? resolve to work closer with Seaman?s home, and try to get those staying there to attend church

8th Annual Report January 12, 1852

110 persons mostly seamen, have taken the pledge of total abstinence from intoxicating liquors, and as your board believes have generally remained true to their pledge. Human frailty however, sometimes prevails, and adverse persuasions wrest our converts form our grasp. But this is not uncommon corruption, and the records of every temperance society shew the melancholy fact that not all who promise are true to their pledge.. If however, one in ten, continue faithful, your money has been well bestowed, and our labor not in vain. It cannot be denied, unpleasant as is the admission, that there is a general reluctance on the part of seamen, to visit the House of worship on the Sabbath, yet in spite of this reluctance, audiences are obtained - though persuasion is often found necessary to accomplish what good will alone had not been able to perform. Many are intercepted in their Sabbath rambles along the Bay and by a timely invitation turned aside and brought into the House of Prayer, and beneath the folds of the Bethel flag, have taken refuge from the seductive influence of evil persuasion, should such instances be few, there are nevertheless important and encouraging.

The history of a society like this, is little more than a recital of struggles against difficulties and your board do not pretend that they have been blessed with uniform success, such aresult is contrary to the experience of all benevolent associations. They are able, however, to present to the society under whom they serve, and to the community among which they stand, as dispensors of their bounty, some of the advantages brought about by sustaining a Mariners church in this city.

It is computed that more that 2000 persons have listed to the voice of the seamen?s preacher within these walls, during the past year, and of these at least three fourths have been persons connected with the sea as an occupation. How far the rescue of such number from the haunts of dissipation and the desecration of the Lord?s Day, may contribute to the great ends of our institution, the great day, for which all other days were made, alone can determine. It is granted that the large portion of all seamen who frequent this port do not attend worship at all. American seamen are fully as delinquent if not more so that foreigners?

but says they are multi-denominational as long as Christian; funds from subscriptions and ?from the Seaman?s Annual Fair conducted by Ladies?; minister is Rev Thomas Hutchings; church for Christian seamen away from home port and for seamen who are not members of any church

March 24, 1852

Letter in Savannah Rep 23/3/52 concerning Port Soc from Joseph Fay (elected but declined post on board Jan 15,1849)

March 27, 1852

committee approve of reply to Savannah Rep, 29/3/52

May 4, 1852

?The President laid before the board a notice signed by three of the directors of the Female Seaman?s Fiends Society respecting charges against the keeper of the Seaman?s Home.? Don?t lake any action because ?the only charge made against Capt Parker viz not acting in concert with the Mariner?s Church, he has already publicly admitted?

March 8, 1854 

board resolves to raise new funds ?to pay up the arrears of salary justly due the Revd Thomas Hutchings?

January 24, 1855

Pres reports ?That the pulpit of the mariner?s church had been regularly filled during the past season (except a short interval during the epidemic) by the Revd Thomas Hutchings? TH accepts $50 a month but would take whatever the society can afford to continue ?the privilege of laboring in the cause of seamen in this port, salary or no salary? Two board members H Gilbet and David Veader dead in epidemic

February 26, 1858

church and minister supported by collections from citizens, seamen and shipmasters, rather than by subscriptions (total 1857-8 $196)

December 12, 1859

?a free discussion of the objects and present condition of the society was entered into? - annual election sees new board elected (WM Crabtree dead)

new board issue ?a full and free invitation to all masters and officers of vessels in the port, together with all seamen to be present at all services that may be held at the Bethel.?

Board also resolves ?to endeavor to interest all classes of the community in the object of the society and the same was heartily acquiesces in by the enthusiastic assemblage?

March 21, 1860

?The president was requested to make inquiry of the Ladies Seaman?s Friend Society respecting a transfer of the Savannah Home to the Port Society?