On September 18, 1797, Christian Newcomer bought a 12-year-old slave girl named Patience. The bill of sale is kept in a courthouse in Hagerstown, Md. It says Newcomer and his heirs could own the girl until she reached age 30, at which point she would be declared free. They would also own any children she bore until they reached age 25 (for girls) or age 30 (for boys).
This happened three years before the denomination actually organized in 1800, and 16 years before Newcomer became a bishop. What was this about? Why did one of our founding fathers, a future bishop, buy a slave girl?
Newcomer kept a meticulous journal, but never mentioned Patience or owning a slave. But on August 1, 1806, he mentions riding into Hagerstown to get medicine for a servant girl who lived with them, but who died later that day around midnight. Was that Patience? If so, she would have been 21 years old.
Most likely, Newcomer bought Patience in order to free her, and since she was just 12, she lived with them. People did this quite often in those days. John Pfrimmer, another prominent UB preacher from those years, bought two slaves and freed them.
Bishop Newcomer’s opposition to slavery was well-known. He presided at the 1821 General Conference which condemned slavery and forbid UB members to own slaves. In his journal, he recorded preaching several times in black churches.