1683: Charlestown pastor sacked for baptising a bear

Atkinson Williamson was parson of St Philip’s, an Episcopal church in Charlestown, South Carolina, in the late 1600s. Several private letters from the early 1700s make mention of the fact that Williamson, sometimes referred to as “Williams”, was an alcoholic. Some report that he was removed from his position after an unseemly incident.

In one exchange of letters, South Carolinian gentlemen Thomas Smith recalls this as Williamson turning up to church drunk and being convinced to baptise a young bear:

“[He] was too great a lover of strong liquor, etc… Some wicked people… made him first fuddled and then got him to christen the bear.”

The incident was also mentioned by James Moore, the British governor of South Carolina between 1700 and 1703. After Williamson’s removal he remained in Charlestown and continued as a clerk of the church.

Source: Various, inc. letter from Thomas Smith to Robert Stevens, January 16th 1707. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.