Filson Fellowships: Linda Goin

Master’s Thesis Fellow Linda Goin’s study on the Huguenot families of Virginia led her to The Filson Historical Society’s collections earlier this year. Goin, a graduate student at DePaul University, is currently researching the Virginia Huguenot’s influence on the development of the Southern Bible Belt.

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The group of French Protestant refugees who settled in 1700 in Manakintown, King William Parish, Virginia, by William Byrd II and England’s King George, traveled through Europe for 15 years before they agreed to come to America. Once arriving in Virginia, the families who stayed on the land set aside by Byrd were anxious to become citizens Linda Goinand to conform to Virginia’s state religion, the Anglican Church. The group developed the vestry of King William Parish, a church settlement created specifically for the Huguenots. One member, Abraham Soblet, instigated a split among the vestry based on his perceptions of the appropriate behavior for a minister and how church members conducted their activities. According to Goin, the schism most likely occurred due to social mobility. Some members who believed in a more Congregationalist style of religion, which included the freedom to gamble, drink and dance, moved to the north shore of the James River, while the remaining portion of the group chose to live a more Calvinistic religious lifestyle on the southern shore of the river. 

When Baptists arrived in Virginia prior to the Revolutionary War, the south shore families accepted these ministers, and a vast number of Huguenot ministers and families converted to Baptism. Following the Revolutionary War, many of these ministers traveled westward to Kentucky, which these Frenchmen discovered during their service in the French and Indian War or during the American Revolution. 

Sunday school in the mountains. A photograph from the scrapbook of Edward O. Guerrant of Wilmore, Ky., 1902. Guerrant's scrapbook contains "illustrations of the work of the Soul-Winners among the Highlanders of America." Filson Photograph CollectionGoin’s goal is to ultimately determine the Virginia Huguenot’s influence on the development of the Southern Bible Belt during the late18th and early 19th centuries. Invaluable to her research are manuscript collections that contain letters, receipts, and other papers that connect the vestry families between Virginia and Kentucky and to the Baptist religion.

Goin mined through various items in The Filson’s Manuscript and Photograph Collections, which provided “valuable insight and factual evidence” to her work. The Trabue Family Papers, 1795-1891, proved a solid connection to descendants of the Virginia Huguenots, even dating the Virginia migrations to Kentucky. The Alice Elizabeth Trabue Papers,1746-1961, contained letters that provided further evidence of relationships between Kentucky and Virginia. Other materials that Goin consulted include the 1795 diary of David Barrow, a Baptist minister who left Richmond, Va., on May 5, 1795, and traveled into Kentucky on a mission. Several volumes of Kentucky Baptist church records included membership lists in which descendants of the Virginia Huguenot families appear. The Green-Guerrant Family Photo Collection contained photographs concerning the Guerrant mission into Kentucky highlands as evangelistic ministers, a possible connection to the Huguenot Guerrant line.

Volume 5, Number 2

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