Click the arrow above to hear selections from a 1980 interview with Marjorie Biddle and her sister Florence Longworth (38 minutes), or read excerpts below.
My mother [Minnie Biddle] used to drive the horse and go to church on the horse . . . her first church was the Old Free Church in Port Washington. It was built in 1858, right down at the end of Harbor Road . . . That was everybody’s church in my time, the white and the colored. I remember the Old Free Church. We went there 3 times a day on Sundays—first Sunday School, then morning service, then night service. We used to have camp meetings, prayer meetings, down there by Dodge’s Grove. It was—like once a week, it was on a Friday, in the summertime. They had benches, and we’d have singing, and like Church, people praying. That’s how we came up, see? The Old Free Church and then Old Camp meeting.
In my father’s [William] time, around 1900, the colored people branched off and had their own church. It was a Mission. They called it Bethel. Now it’s Mt. Olive AME, African Methodist Episcopal. We didn’t have to separate but, in those days, I think in my father’s days, they wanted to have it. They wanted their own church. Uncle Emmet [Griffin], Papa, and the Eatos, they worked together. Each night they came home from work, they would lay the foundation for the Church. They worked together . . . we got a little piece of ground up on Mackey Avenue, and that’s where we stayed. That’s exclusive up there. The Church could hold about 100 people. White and colored at the same . . . I mean, it was a family. My father was a Trustee. We had a record of our Church until we remodeled about 5 years ago. It was mislaid—all the weddings and christenings and everything. That was an awful thing!
Everybody in our church, if we can help out, we do. And if anything happened, we all go over and be with that person and help ‘em. People say, “How do you do it?” I say, “We were brought up like this.”
We folks built other churches down here, too. Mt. Pleasant and Zion Baptist—they’re made up of people from the South. They’re all new to us, they’re new. Years ago, yes, very often, we had programs together, but not these modern years, no way.
My sister Florence [Longworth] is the oldest member of our Church now. She’s “Mother Longworth.” Aunt Mary [Veit] was the oldest. She died a year ago. She was 89. Oh, my God, we were brought up in there. That church is almost as old as I am, and I’ll be 76 in July . It’s a Biddle Church, practically. Everybody in our church is family, is relatives. It’s a family church, a family church, and it always has been—a family church: christenings, babies, weddings, funerals. They’re all the group. We had Mama, first started, now all her generation’s dead, now here’s where we come up. Now, when we’re gone, the roots are gone. It’s the oldest. Not the younger roots, no, I don’t know nothin’ about these younger roots. They come up, we’re going down. They go to different churches, some is Lutheran, some Catholic.
Interviewed by Glenderlyn Johnson, 1980