Monday, May 26, 2008

Breaking the Sabbath

Breaking the Sabbath was not taken lightly in early Kentucky as Sunday was supposed to be a respite from labor. Those who dared to do otherwise were sure to be tattled on by neighbors and had to suffer the consequences.

In May of 1847, Jeremiah Dunning, yeoman of Crittenden County, Kentucky, was accused by Bennett Crouch of presuming to “violate and break the Sabbath day by then and there labouring at his usual business, work, or avocation, to wit: packing timber for making staves, the said work, or labour, not being the usual and ordinary household and domestic business, nor other work of necessity or charity.”

That same month, William Walker, also a yeoman of Crittenden County, was accused of breaking the sabbath by “taking coal from the pit and transporting it to a place of deposit for sale.” T.S. Phillips and John W. Phillips were his accusers.

In November of 1847, Isaac Dilbeck of Crittenden County was accused by J.C.J. Bennett and Wylie Jones, of breaking the Sabbath by “driving his horses in a sled for profit on a Sabbath Day, which was not a work of necessity or charity and Dilbeck not being a member of any religious society who observed as a Sabatth any other day of the week than Sunday.”

Although breaking the Sabbath was considered serious, fines set by the jury were generally small. Part of the punishment was the embarrassment of your neighbors knowing you had not conformed to the mores of society or the laws of the commonwealth.

The law/tradition of not working on the Sabbath was still common just half of a century ago and perhaps later than that. I can remember my parents and grandparents visiting with family and friends on long Sunday afternoons because all work ceased on Sunday. Blue Laws were still in effect then and there was little to do outside visiting, reading and napping.

Source: Crittenden County Circuit Court records, Accession #A1994 267, Box 4, Bundle #21, Kentucky Dept for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky

No comments: