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Title: Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Georgia Narratives, Part 4
Author: Work Projects Administration
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Georgia Narratives, Part 4" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by the
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division)

[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note


A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves


Illustrated with Photographs





the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Georgia


Telfair, Georgia                        1
Thomas, Cordelia                       11
Thomas, Ike                            25
Toombs, Jane Mickens                   29
Town, Phil                             37
  [TR: In the interview, he's named Phil Towns.]

Upson, Neal                           48

Van Hook, John F.                      71
Vinson, Addie                          97
Virgel, Emma                          115

Walton, Rhodus                        123
Ward, William                         128, 132
Washington, Lula                      134
Willbanks, Green                      136
Williamson, Eliza                     148
Willingham, Frances                   151
Willis, Adeline                       161
Willis, Uncle                         168
  [TR: Willis Bennefield in combined interview.]
Winfield, Cornelia                    176
Womble, George                        179
  [TR: Also called Wombly in the interview.]
Wright, Henry                         194

Young, Dink Walton                    205


[Excerpts from Slave Interviews]
Adeline                               212
Eugene                                213
Mary                                  215
Rachel                                216
Laura                                 216
Matilda                               217
Easter                                218
Carrie                                219
Malinda                               219
Amelia                                220

[Four Slaves Interviewed by Maude Barragan, Edith Bell Love,
 Ruby Lorraine Radford]
Ellen Campbell                        221
Rachel Sullivan                       226
Eugene Wesley Smith                   230
Willis Bennefield                     235
  [TR: Uncle Willis in individual interview.]

Emmaline Heard                        245
Rosa and Jasper Millegan              251
Camilla Jackson                       254
Anna Grant                            255
Emmaline Heard                        256

COMPILATIONS [Richmond County]

Folklore                              261
Conjuration                           269
Folk Remedies and Superstitions       282
Mistreatment of Slaves                290
Slavery                               308
Work, Play, Food, Clothing,
     Marriage,  etc.                  355

Transcriber's Notes:

[TR: The interview headers presented here contain all information
included in the original, but may have been rearranged for readability.
Also, some ages and addresses have been drawn from blocks of information
on subsequent interview pages. Names in brackets were drawn from text of

[TR: Some interviews were date-stamped; these dates have been added to
interview headers in brackets. Where part of date could not be
determined -- has been substituted. These dates do not appear to
represent actual interview dates, rather dates completed interviews were
received or perhaps transcription dates.]

[TR: In general, typographical errors have been left in place to match
the original images. In the case where later editors have hand-written
corrections, simple typographical errors have been silently corrected.]


Box 131, R.F.D. #2
Athens, Ga.

Written by:
Miss Grace McCune
Athens, Ga.

Edited by:
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall
Athens, Ga.

Mrs. Leila Harris
Augusta, Ga.
[Date Stamp: APR 29 1938]

"Yes chile, I'll be glad to tell you de story of my life, I can't tell
you much 'bout slav'ry 'cause I wuz jus' six months old when freedom
come, but I has heared quite a lot, and I will tell you all I kin
'member 'bout everythin." Said old "Aunt" Georgia Telfair, who lives
with her son to whom her devotion is quite evident. Both "Aunt" Georgia
and the little home show the excellent care that is given them.

"My pa," she said, "wuz Pleasant Jones, an' he b'longed to Marse Young
L.G. Harris. Dey lived at de Harris place out on Dearing Street. Hit wuz
all woods out dar den, an' not a bit lak Dearing Street looks now.

"Rachel wuz my ma's name. Us don' know what her las' name wuz 'cause she
wuz sold off when she wuz too little to 'member. Dr. Riddin' (Redding)
bought her an' his fambly always jus' called her Rachel Riddin'. De
Riddin' place wuz whar Hancock Avenue is now, but it wuz all in woods
'roun' dar, jus' lak de place whar my pa wuz. Atter dey wuz married ma
had to stay on wid de Riddin' fambly an' her chilluns b'longed to de
Riddin's 'cause dey owned her. Miss Maxey Riddin' wuz my brudder's young
Missus, an' I wuz give to her sister, Miss Lula Riddin', for to be her
own maid, but us didn't git to wuk for 'em none 'cause it wuz jus' at
dis time all de slaves got sot free. Atter dat my pa tuk us all wid him
an' went to farm on de old Widderspoon (Witherspoon) place.

"It wuz 'way off in de woods. Pa cut down trees an' built us a log
cabin. He made de chimbly out of sticks an' red mud, an' put iron bars
crost de fireplace to hang pots on for to bile our vittuls an' made
ovens for de bakin'. De bes' way to cook 'tatoes wuz to roas' 'em in de
ashes wid de jackets on. Dey ain' nothin' better tastin' dan ash-roasted
'tatoes wid good home-made butter to eat wid 'em. An 'us had de butter,
'cause us kep' two good cows. Ma had her chickens an' tukkeys an' us
raised plenty of hogs, so we nebber wuz widout meat. Our reg'lar Sunday
breakfas' wuz fish what pa cotch out of de crick. I used to git tired
out of fish den, but a mess of fresh crick fish would sho' be jus' right

"Us always kep' a good gyardan full of beans, corn, onions, peas an'
'taters, an' dey warn't nobody could beat us at raisin' lots of greens,
'specially turnips an' colla'd greens. Us saved heaps of dry peas an'
beans, an' dried lots of peaches an' apples to cook in winter. When de
wind wuz a howlin an' de groun' all kivvered wid snow, ma would make
dried fruit puffs for us, dat sho' did hit de spot.

"When I wuz 'bout eight years old, dey sont me to school. I had to walk
from Epps Bridge Road to Knox School. Dey calls it Knox Institute now. I
toted my blue back speller in one han' and my dinner bucket in de other.
Us wore homespun dresses wid bonnets to match. De bonnets wuz all made
in one piece an' had drawstrings on de back to make 'em fit, an' slats
in de brims to make 'em stiff an' straight. Our dresses wuz made long to
keep our legs warm. I don't see, for to save me, how dey keeps dese
young-uns from freezin' now since dey let 'em go 'roun' mos' naked.

"Our brush arbor church wuz nigh whar Brooklyn Mount Pleasant Church is
now, an' us went to Sunday School dar evvy Sunday. It warn't much of a
church for looks, 'cause it wuz made out of poles stuck in de groun' an'
de roof wuz jus' pine limbs an' brush, but dere sho' wuz some good
meetin's in dat old brush church, an' lots of souls foun' de way to de
heb'enly home right dar.

"Our reg'lar preacher wuz a colored man named Morrison, but Mr. Cobb
preached to us lots of times. He wuz a white gemman, an' he say he could
a sot all night an' lissen long as us sung dem old songs. Some of 'em I
done clar forgot, but de one I lak bes' goes sorter lak dis:

  'I want to be an angel
   An' wid de angels stan'
   A crown upon my forehead
   And a harp widin my han'.'

"Another tune wuz 'Roll, Jordan Roll.' Little chillun wuz larnt to sing,
'How Sweetly do de Time Fly, When I Please my Mother,' an' us chillun
sho' would do our best a singin' dat little old song, so Preacher Cobb
would praise us.

"When I jined de church dere wuz 35 of us baptized de same day in de
crick back of de church. While Preacher Brown wuz a baptizin' us, a big
crowd wuz standin' on de bank a shoutin' an' singin', 'Dis is de healin'
Water,' an', 'Makin' for de Promise Lan! Some of 'em wuz a prayin' too.
Atter de baptizin' wuz done dey had a big dinner on de groun's for de
new members, but us didn't see no jugs dat day. Jus' had plenty of good
somethin' t'eat.

"When us warn't in school, me an' my brudder wukked in de fiel' wid pa.
In cotton plantin' time, pa fixed up de rows an' us drap de seeds in
'em. Nex' day us would rake dirt over 'em wid wooden rakes. Pa made de
rakes hisse'f. Dey had short wooden teef jus' right for to kivver de
seed. Folkses buys what dey uses now an' don't take up no time makin'
nothin' lak dat.

"In dem days 'roun' de house an' in de fiel' boys jus' wo' one piece of
clo'es. It wuz jus' a long shirt. Dey didn't know nothin' else den, but
I sho' would lak to see you try to make boys go 'roun' lookin' lak dat

"Dey hired me out to Mr. Jack Weir's fambly when I wuz 'bout fo'teen
years old to do washin', ironin', an' cleanin' up de house, an' I wukked
for 'em 'til I married. Dey lemme eat all I wanted dere at de house an'
paid me in old clo'es, middlin' meat, sirup, 'tatoes, an' wheat flour,
but I never did git no money for pay. Not nary a cent.

"Us wukked mighty hard, but us had good times too. De bigges' fun us had
wuz at candy pullin's. Ma cooked de candy in de wash pot out in de yard.
Fust she poured in some home-made sirup, an' put in a heap of brown
sugar from de old sirup barrel an' den she biled it down to whar if you
drapped a little of it in cold water it got hard quick. It wuz ready den
to be poured out in greasy plates an' pans. Us greased our han's wid
lard to keep de candy from stickin' to 'em, an' soon as it got cool
enough de couples would start pullin' candy an' singin'. Dat's mighty
happy music, when you is singin' an' pullin' candy wid yo' bes' feller.
When de candy got too stiff an' hard to pull no mo', us started eatin',
an' it sho' would evermo' git away from dar in a hurry. You ain't nebber
seed no dancin', what is dancin', lessen you has watched a crowd dance
atter dey et de candy what dey done been pullin'.

"Quiltin's wuz a heap of fun. Sometimes two or three famblies had a
quiltin' together. Folkses would quilt some an' den dey passed 'roun' de
toddy. Some would be cookin' while de others wuz a quiltin' an' den when
supper wuz ready dey all stopped to eat. Dem colla'd greens wid cornpone
an' plenty or gingercakes an' fruit puffs an' big ole pots of coffee wuz
mighty fine eatin's to us den.

"An' dere warn't nothin' lackin' when us had cornshuckin's. A gen'ral of
de cornshuckin' wuz appointed to lead off in de fun. He sot up on top of
de big pile of corn an' hysted de song. He would git 'em started off
singin' somethin' lak, 'Sallie is a Good Gal,' an' evvybody kept time
shuckin' an' a singin'. De gen'ral kept singin' faster an' faster, an'
shucks wuz jus' flyin'. When pa started passin' de jug 'roun' dem
Niggers sho' nuff begun to sing loud an' fas' an' you wuz 'bliged for to
'low Sallie mus' be a Good Gal, de way de shucks wuz comin' off of dat
corn so fas'. Dey kep' it up 'til de corn wuz all shucked, an' ma
hollered, 'Supper ready!' Den dey made tracks for de kitchen, an' dey
didn't stop eatin' an' drinkin' dat hot coffee long as dey could
swallow. Ain't nobody fed 'em no better backbones, an' spareribs, turnip
greens, 'tato pies, an' sich lak dan my ma set out for 'em. Old time
ways lak dat is done gone for good now. Folkses ain't lak dey used to
be. Dey's all done got greedy an' don't keer 'bout doin' nothin' for
nobody else no more.

"Ma combed our hair wid a Jim Crow comb, or cyard, as some folkses
called 'em. If our hair wuz bad nappy she put some cotton in de comb to
keep it from pullin' so bad, 'cause it wuz awful hard to comb.

"Evvybody tried to raise plenty of gourds, 'cause dey wuz so handy to
use for dippers den. Water wuz toted from de spring an' kept in piggins.
Don't spec' you ebber did see a piggin. Dats a wooden bucket wid wire
hoops 'roun' it to keep it from leakin'. De wash place wuz nex' to de
spring. Pa fixed us up a big old stump whar us had to battle de clo'es
wid a battlin' stick. It tuk a sight of battlin' to git de dirt out

"If you turned a chunk over in de fire, bad luck wuz sho' to come to
you. If a dog howled a certain way at night, or if a scritch owl come in
de night, death wuz on de way to you, an' you always had to be keerful
so maybe bad spirits would leave you alone.

"Pa built us a new kitchen, jus' lak what de white folkses had dem days.
It sot out in de back yard, a little piece of a way from our house. He
made it out of logs an' put a big old chimbly wid a big fireplace at one
end. Benches wuz built 'roun' de sides for seats. Dere warn't no floor
in it, but jus' dirt floor. Dat wuz one gran' kitchen an' us wuz mighty
proud of it. [HW: p.4]

"My w'ite folkses begged me not to leave 'em, when I told 'em I wuz
gwine to marry Joe Telfair. I'd done been wukkin' for 'em nigh on to six
years, an' wuz mos' twenty years old. Dey gimme my weddin' clo'es, an'
when I seed dem clo'es I wuz one proud Nigger, 'cause dey wuz jus' lak I
wanted. De nightgown wuz made out of white bleachin' an' had lots of
tucks an' ruffles an' it even had puff sleeves. Sho' 'nough it did! De
petticoat had ruffles an' puffs plum up to de wais' ban'. Dere wuz a
cosset kiver dat wuz cut to fit an' all fancy wid tucks an' trimmin',
an' de drawers, dey sho' wuz pretty, jus' full of ruffles an' tucks
'roun' de legs. My dress wuz a cream buntin', lak what dey calls serge
dese days. It had a pretty lace front what my ma bought from one of de
Moss ladies. When I got all dressed up I wuz one mo' gran' lookin'

"Us got married in de new kitchen an' it wuz plum full, 'cause ma had
done axed 76 folkses to de weddin'. Some of 'em wuz Joe's folkses, an'
us had eight waiters: four gals, an' four boys. De same Preacher Brown
what baptized me, married us an' den us had a big supper. My Missus,
Lula Weir, had done baked a great big pretty cake for me an' it tasted
jus' as good as it looked. Atter us et all us could, one of de waiters
called de sets for us to dance de res' of de night. An' sich dancin' as
us did have! Folkses don't know how to dance dat good no mo'. Dat wuz
sho' nuff happy dancin'. Yes Ma'am, I ain't nebber gonna forgit what a
gran' weddin' us had.

"Next day us moved right here an' I done been here ever since. Dis place
b'longed to Joe's gran'ma, an' she willed it to him. Us had 15 chillun,
but ain't but five of 'em livin' now, an' Joe he's been daid for years.
Us always made a good livin' on de farm, an' still raises mos' of what
us needs, but I done got so po'ly I can't wuk no more.

"I'se still tryin' to live right an' walk de narrow way, so as I kin go
to Heb'en when I dies. I'se gwine to pray for you an' ax de Lawd to
bless you, for you has been so good an' patient wid me, an' I'se sho'
thankful my son sont you to see me. You done helped me to feel lots
better. Good-bye, an' God bless you, an' please Ma'am, come back to see
me again."


130 Berry Street
Athens, Ga.

Written by:
Grace McCune [HW: (white)]

Edited by:
Sarah H. Hall

Leila Harris

John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7

A long, hot walk over rough, hilly roads brought the visitor to
Cordelia's place just after the noon hour of a sweltering July day, and
the shade of the tall water oaks near the little cabin was a most
welcome sight. The house stood only a few feet from a spur of railroad
track but the small yard was enclosed by a luxurious green hedge. Roses
predominated among the many varieties of flowers in evidence on the
otherwise drab premises.

A dilapidated porch across the front of the residence had no roof and
the floorboards were so badly rotted that it did not seem quite safe to
walk from the steps to the front door where Cordelia stood waiting.
"Come right in, Missy," she invited, "but be keerful not to fall through
dat old porch floor." The tall, thin Negress was clad in a faded but
scrupulously clean blue dress, a white apron, and a snowy headcloth
crowned by a shabby black hat. Black brogans completed her costume.
Cordelia led the way to the rear of a narrow hall. "Us will be cooler
back here," she explained. Sunlight poured through gaping holes in the
roof, and the coarse brown wrapping paper pasted on the walls was
splattered and streaked by rain. The open door of Cordelia's bedroom
revealed a wooden bed, a marble-topped bureau, and a washstand of the
Victorian period. A rocker, two straight chairs, a small table, and a
trunk completed the furnishings of the room and left but little space
for its occupant to move about.

"I'se jus' a mite tired," Cordelia stated, "'cause I jus' got back from
de courthouse whar dem welfare 'omans done gimme a sack o' flour and
some other bundles what I ain't opened up yit, but I knows dey's got
somepin in 'em to holp me, 'cause dem folks is sho' been mighty good to
me since my rheumatiz is been so bad I couldn't wuk enough to make a
livin'. De doctor, he say I got de blood presser. I don't rightly know
jus' what dat is, but it looks lak somepin's a-pressin' right down in my
haid 'til I feels right foolish, so I reckon he's right 'bout it a-bein
de blood presser. When I gits down on my knees it takes a long time for
me to git straight up on my feet again. De Lord, He's done been wid me
all dese years, and old Cordelia's goin' to keep right on kneelin' 'fore
Him and praisin' Him often 'til He 'cides de time has come for her to go
home to Heben.

"I was borned on Marse Andrew Jackson's plantation down in 'Conee
(Oconee) County, twixt here and High Shoals. Marse Andy, he owned my
Mammy, and she was named Em'ly Jackson. Bob Lowe was my Daddy, and he
b'longed to Marse Ike Lowe. The Lowe plantation was nigh whar Marse
Andy's was, down der in 'Conee County. 'Cause neither one of deir
marsters wouldn't sell one of 'em to de other marster, Mammy had to stay
on de Jackson plantation and Daddy was kept right on wukin' on de Lowe
place atter dey had done got married. Marse Bob, he give Daddy a ticket
what let him go to see Mammy evvy Wednesday and Sadday night, and dem
patterollers couldn't bother him long as he kept dat ticket. When dey
did find a slave off his marster's plantation widout no ticket, it was
jus' too bad, for dat meant a beatin' what most kilt him. Mammy said dey
didn't never git my Daddy, 'cause he allus had his ticket to show.

"I don't ricollect much 'bout days 'fore de big war ended 'cause I was
so little den, but many's de time I heared Mammy and Daddy and de other
old folks tell 'bout dem times. Us chillun had de bestes' time of
anybody dem days, 'cause dey didn't 'low us to do nothin' but jus' eat
all us could and play de rest of de time. I don't know how it was on
other places, but dat was de way us was raised on our old marster's

"De cracks of de log cabins whar de slaves lived was chinked wid red mud
to keep out de cold and rain. Dere warn't no glass in de windows, dey
jus' had plank shutters what dey fastened shut at night. Thin slide
blocks kivvered de peepholes in de rough plank doors. Dey had to have
dem peepholes so as dey could see who was at de door 'fore dey opened
up. Dem old stack chimblies what was made out of sticks and red clay,
was all time gittin' on fire. Dem old home-made beds had high posties
and us called 'em 'teesters.' To take de place of springs, what hadn't
never been seen 'round dar in dem days, dey wove heavy cords lengthways
and crostways. Over dem cords dey laid a flat mat wove out of white oak
splints and on dat dey put de homespun bed ticks stuffed wid wheat
straw. Dey could have right good pillows if dey was a mind to pick de
scrap cotton and fix it up, but dere warn't many of 'em keered dat much
'bout no pillows.

"Slaves didn't do no cookin' on our place 'cause Marster fed evvybody up
at de big house. Missy, I ain't never gwine to forgit dat big old
fireplace up dar. Dey piled whole sticks of cord wood on it at one time,
wid little sticks crossways under 'em and, let me tell you, dat was a
fire what would cook anything and evvything. De pots hung on swingin'
racks, and dere was big ovens, little ovens, long-handled fryin' pans,
and heavy iron skillets wid tight, thick lids. It sho' was a sight de
way us chillun used to make 'way wid dem ash-roasted 'taters and dat
good, fresh butter. Us chillun had to eat supper early 'cause all
chillun had to be in bed 'fore dark. It warn't lak dese days. Why Missy,
chilluns now stays up 'most all night runnin' 'round dese parts.

"Marster was sho' good 'bout seein' dat his Niggers had plenty to eat
and wear. For supper us et our bread and milk wid wooden spoons out of
wooden bowls, but for dinner dey give us veg'ables, corn pone, and
'taters. Marster raised all de sorts of veg'ables what dey knowed
anything 'bout in dem days, and he had big old fields of wheat, rye,
oats, and corn, 'cause he 'lowed dat stock had to eat same as folkses.
Dere was lots of chickens, turkeys, cows, hogs, sheep, and some goats on
dat plantation so as dere would allus be plenty of meat for evvybody.

"Our Marster evermore did raise de cotton--lots of it to sell, and
plenty for clothes for all de folkses, white and black, what lived on
his place. All de cloth was home-made 'cept de calico for de best Sunday
dresses. Chillun had to spin de thread and deir mammies wove de cloth.
'Fore de end of de war, whilst I was still so little I had to stand on a
box to reach de spinnin' wheel good, I could spin six reels a day.

"Chillun was happy when hog-killin' time come. Us warn't 'lowed to help
none, 'cept to fetch in de wood to keep de pot bilin' whar de lard was
cookin'. Our Mist'ess allus had de lard rendered in de bigges' washpot,
what dey sot on rocks in de fireplace. Us didn't mind gittin' de wood
for dat, 'cause when dem cracklin's got done, dey let us have all us
could eat and, jus' let me tell you, Missy, you ain't never had nothin'
good 'less you has et a warm skin cracklin' wid a little salt. One time
when dey was renderin' lard, all us chillun was crowdin' 'round close as
us could git to see which one could git a cracklin' fust. Mist'ess told
us to stand back 'fore somebody got burnt; den Mammy said she was gwine
to take de hides off our backs 'bout gittin' so close to dat fire, and
'bout dat time somebody 'hind me gimme a quick push; and in de fire I
went. Marster grabbed me 'most time I hit dem red coals, but one hand
and arm was burnt so bad I had to wear it in a sling for a long time.
Den Marster laid down de law and told us what he would do if he cotch us
chillun hangin' 'round de fire whar dey was cookin' lard again.

"Folkses said our Marster must have a powerful sweet tooth on account of
he kept so many bee hives. When bees swarmed folkses rung bells and beat
on tin pans to git 'em settled. Veils was tied over deir haids to keep
de bees from gittin' to deir faces when dey went to rob de hives.
Chillun warn't never 'lowed to be nowhar nigh durin' dat job. One day I
sneaked out and got up close to see how dey done it, and dem bees got
all over me. Dey stung me so bad I couldn't see for days and days.
Marster, he jus' fussed and said dat gal, Cordelia, she was allus whar
she didn't b'long. Missy, I ain't never wanted to fool wid no more bees,
and I don't even lak honey no more.

"Slaves all went to church wid deir white folkses 'cause dere warn't no
Nigger churches dem days. All de preachin' was done by white preachers.
Churches warn't nigh and convenient dem days lak dey is now and dey was
such a fur piece from de plantations dat most of de folkses stayed all
day, and dem meetin' days was big days den. De cooks was told to fix de
bestes' dinners dey could git up, and chillun was made to know dey had
better mind what dey was 'bout when dey was in de meetin' house or it
was gwine to be made mighty hot for 'em when dey got back home. Dat was
one thing our Marster didn't 'low no foolin' 'bout. His Niggers had to
be-have deyselfs at de meetin' house. 'Long 'bout August when craps was
laid by, dey had brush arbor meetin's. White folks brought deir slaves
and all of 'em listened to a white preacher from Watkinsville named Mr.
Calvin Johnson. Dere was lots of prayin' and shoutin' at dem old brush
arbor 'vival meetin's.

"Dey had campmeetin's too. De old Freeman place was whar dey had some of
dem fust campmeetin's, and Hillsboro, Mars Hill, and Bethabara was some
of de other places whar Marster tuk us to campmeetin's. Missy, you jus'
don't know nothin' 'bout 'citement if you ain't never been to one of dem
old-time campmeetin's. When folkses would git 'ligion dey would holler
and shout a-testifyin' for de Lord. Atter de meetin' dey dammed up de
crick and let it git deep enough for de baptizin'. Dey dipped de white
folkses fust, and den de Niggers. You could hear 'em singin' a mile away
dem old songs lak: _On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand_,--_Roll, Jordan
Roll_,--_All God's Chilluns is a-goin' Home_, and--_Whar de Livin'
Waters Flow_. I jus' can't 'member half of dem good old songs 'cause my
mem'ry ain't good as it used to be." Here Cordelia paused. She seemed
oblivious to all around her for several minutes, and then she suddenly
smiled. "Lordy, Missy," she began, "if I could jus' call back dem days
wid our good old Marster to look atter us and see dat us had what us
needed to eat and wear and a good comf'table cabin to live in, wouldn't
dis be a happy old 'oman? Lots of de other old folks would lak it too,
'cause our white folkses day sho' did take good keer of deir slaves.

"Did you ever hear of dem logrollin's? On our place dey spent 'bout two
whole days cookin' and gittin' ready. Marster axed evvybody from fur and
nigh, and dey allus come 'cause dey knowed he was gwine to give 'em a
good old time. De way dey rolled dem logs was a sight, and de more good
corn liquor Marster passed 'round, de faster dem logs rolled. Come
night-time, Marster had a big bonfire built up and sot lots of pitchpine
torches 'round so as dere would be plenty of light for 'em to see how to
eat dat fine supper what had done been sot out for 'em. Atter supper,
dey danced nigh all de rest of de night. Mammy used to tell us 'bout de
frolics next day, 'cause us chillun was made to go to bed at sundown.
Come day, go day, no matter what might happen, growin' chillun had to be
in bed at deir reg'lar time, but Mammy never forgot to tell us all 'bout
de good times next day.

"Mammy said dem cornshuckin's meant jus' as much fun and jollification
as wuk. Dey gathered Marster's big corn crap and 'ranged it in long,
high piles, and sometimes it tuk sev'ral days for dem cornshuckers to
git it all shucked, but evvybody stayed right dar on de job 'til it was
finished. At night, dey wukked by de light of big fires and torches, den
dey had de big supper and started dancin'. Dey stopped so often to swig
dat corn liquor Marster pervided for 'em dat 'fore midnight folkses
started fallin' out and drappin' down in de middle of de dance ring. De
others would git 'em by de heels and drag 'em off to one side 'til dey
come to and was ready to drink more liquor and dance again. Dat was de
way dey went on de rest of de night.

"Corpses! Buryin's! Graveyards! Why, Miss, dere warn't nigh so many
folkses a-dyin' all de time dem days as dere is now. Folkses lived right
and was tuk better keer of and dere warn't so much reason for 'em to die
out den. When somebody did die, folkses come from miles and miles around
to de buryin'. Dey give de slaves de same sort of funerals de white
folkses had. De corpses was washed good all over wid hot water and
home-made soap, den dey was dressed and laid out on de coolin' boards
'til de cyarpenter man had time to make up de coffins. Lordy, Missy,
ain't you never seed no coolin' board? I 'spects dey is all gone now
though. Dey looked a good deal lak ironin' boards, only dey had laigs to
stand on. Lots of times dey didn't dress de corpses, but jus' wropped
'em in windin' sheets. Dem home-made, pine coffins didn't look so bad
atter dey got 'em painted up and lined nice. Dey driv de wagon what had
de corpse on it right slow to de graveyard. De preacher talked a little
and prayed; den atter de mourners had done sung somepin on de order of
_Harps [HW: Hark?] From De Tomb_, dey shovelled in de dirt over de
coffin whilst de preacher said comfortin' words to de fambly of de daid.
Evvy plantation had its own graveyard wid a fence around it, and dere
was a place in it for de slaves 'nigh whar deir white folks was buried.

"Honey, didn't you never hear tell of Dr. Frank Jackson? He was sho' a
grand doctor. Dr. Jackson made up his own medicines and toted 'em 'round
wid him all de time. He was close kin to our Marse Andy Jackson's
fambly. All dem Jacksons down in 'Conee was good white folks.

"Us stayed on wid Old Marster for a little while atter de war was over,
and den right away Mammy died and Daddy hired me out to Mrs. Sidney
Rives (Reaves?). I 'spects one reason she was so mighty good to me was
'cause I was so little den. I was nigh grown when I left her to wuk for
Dr. Palmer's fambly. All his chillun was little den and I was deir nuss.
One of de best of his chillun was little Miss Eunice. She is done growed
to be a school teacher and dey tells me she is still a-teachin'. It
warn't long atter my Daddy died dat I left de Palmers and started
wukkin' for Mr. Dock Dorsey's fambly. If dere ever was a good Christian
'oman in dis here old world it was Miss Sallie Dorsey, Mr. Dock Dorsey's
wife. She had been Miss Sallie Chappell 'fore she married Mr. Dorsey.
Miss Sallie tried to git evvybody what stayed 'round her to live right
too, and she wanted all her help to go to church reg'lar. If Miss Sallie
and Marse Dock Dorsey was livin' now, dey would pervide for Old 'Delia
jus' lak dey used to do. All deir chillun was nice. Miss Fannie and Miss
Sue, dey was extra good gals, but somehow I jus' can't call back de
names of dem other ones now. Dey all had to be good wid de sort of mammy
and daddy dey had. Miss Sallie, she was sick a long time 'fore she died,
and dey let me wait on her. Missy, I tell you de gospel truth, I sho'
did love dat 'oman. Not long 'fore she passed on to Heben, she told her
husband dat atter she was gone, she wanted him to marry up wid her
cousin, Miss Hargrove, so as he would have somebody to help him raise up
her chillun, and he done 'zactly what she axed him to. All of my own
white folkses has done died out, and Old 'Delia won't be here much
longer. One of de Thorntons here--I forgits which one--married up wid my
young Mist'ess, Rebecca Jackson. Her gal got married up wid Dr. Jago, a
horse-doctor. A insurance man named Mr. Speer married into de Jackson
fambly too. He moved his fambly from here to de mountains on account of
his son's health, and I jus' los' track of 'em den.

"Lordy, Chile! What you want to know 'bout my weddin' for, nowhow? Dere
ain't never gwine to be no more weddin's lak dey had back dere in dem
times 'cause folkses thinks dey got to have too much nowadays. When
folkses got married den dey was a-thinkin' 'bout makin' sho' 'nough
homes for deyselfs, and gittin' married meant somepin sort of holy.
Mammy said dat most times when slaves got married dey jus' jumped
backwards over a broomstick whilst deir Marster watched and den he
pernounced dat dey was man and wife. Now dey is got to go to de
courthouse and pay out good money for a license and den go git a
preacher or somebody lak a jestice jedge to say de marriage words over

"Me and Solomon Thomas had to go buy us a license too, but us didn't
mind 'bout 'puttin out 'dat money cause us was so much in love. I wore a
pretty white dress and a breakfast shawl, and atter us had done went to
de preacher man's house and got married, us come right on here to dis
very house what had b'longed to Solomon's daddy 'fore it was Solomon's.
Us built two more rooms on de house, but all de time Solomon lived us
tried to keep de place lookin' a good deal lak it was de day us got

"Atter Solomon died, I sold off most of de land to de railroad for de
right of way for dat dere track what you sees out dere, and it sho' has
made plenty of wuk for me to keep dat soot what dem engines is all time
a-spittin' out cleaned off my things in de house. It draps down through
dem big holes overhead, and I can't git hold of no money to have de roof
patched up.

"Me and Solomon, us had 11 chillun, but dey is all daid out but three.
One of my boys is in Baltimore and another boy lives in Louisiana
somewhar. My gal, Delia, she stays over in de Newtown part of Athens
here. She would love to help her old Mammy, but my Delia's got chillun
of her own and she can't git nothin' to do 'cept a little washin' for de
white folkses, and she ain't able to pervide what her own household
needs to eat. Dem boys of mine is done got so fur off dey's done forgot
all 'bout deir old Mammy.

"When us fust got married, Solomon wukked at Mr. Orr's cotton house, and
he stayed dere a long time 'fore he went to wuk for Mr. Moss and Mr.
Levy. All dem white folks was good to me and Solomon. I kept on wukkin'
for de Dorseys 'til us had so many chillun I had to stay home and look
atter 'em. Solomon got sick and he lay dere sufferin' a long, long time,
but Mr. Moss and Mr. Levy seed dat he didn't want for nothin'. Even
atter Solomon died dem good white mens kept on comin' out now and den to
see if me and Solomon's chillun had what us needed.

"Solomon, my Solomon, he went out of dis here world, in dat dere room
whar you sees dat old bed, and dat is perzactly whar I wants to be when
de Blessed Lord lays his hands on me and tells me to come on Home to
Glory. I wants to be toted out of dat room, through dis hall and on out
to de graveyard jus' lak my man was. I knows dat evvything would be done
nice jus' lak I wants it if Mr. Moss and Mr. Levy was a-livin' 'cause
dey was both Masons, and members of de Masons is all done swore a oath
to look atter deir own folkses. Dey said Solomon and his fambly was lak
deir own folkses, Mr. Moss and Mr. Levy did. Most of de folkses, both
white and black, dat I has knowed and loved has done gone on over de
Jordan, out of dis world of trouble, and it will be happy days for all
of us when us meets again in de place 'of many mansions' whar dere won't
be nothin' for none of us to pester ourselfs 'bout no more.

"All of my life, I'se had a great desire to travel, jus' to go evvywhar,
but atter all dese years of busy livin' I 'spects all de trav'lin' I'll
ever do will be on de road to Glory. Dat will be good enough for me
'cause I got so many more of 'em I loves over dar dan is left here."

As the visitor passed out of earshot of Cordelia's cabin the last words
she heard from the old Negress were: "Good-bye again, Missy. Talkin' to
you has been a heap of consolation to me."

[HW: Dist-2
Ex Slave #105]
Alberta Minor
Re-search Worker

Heidt Bridges Farm near Rio Georgia

September 4, 1936
[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

[TR: This interview contained many handwritten edits; where text was
transposed or meaning was significantly changed, it has been noted.]

Ike Thomas was born near Monticello in Jasper County on the Thomas
plantation. His mother and father were sold when he was a little boy,
and "Missus" Thomas, in picking her house boy, took Ike to raise for a
carriage boy. She picked her little niggers by the way they wore their
hats. If they set them on the back of their heads, they grew up to be
"high-minded", but if they pulled them over their eyes, they'd grow up
to be "sneaky and steal".

Mrs. Thomas let him sleep on a trundle bed pulled out at night and put
under her bed in the day and fed him under the table. She'd put a piece
of meat in a biscuit and hand it down to him and warned him if they had
company not to holler when he was thru so he'd touch her on the knee but
his mouth was so big and he'd eat so fast that he "jes kep' on teching
her on the knee."

During the war, when they got word the Yankees were coming, Mrs. Thomas
would hide her "little niggers" sometimes in the wardrobe back of her
clothes, sometimes between the mattresses, or sometimes in the cane
brakes. After the Yankees left, she'd ring a bell and they would know
they could come out of hiding. (When they first heard the slaves were
free, they didn't believe it so they just stayed on with their "white
folks".) [HW: Transpose to page 3.]

If the negroes were mean or ran away, they would be chased by hounds and
brought back for punishment.

When still a young man, Ike ran away with a negro couple coming in a
buggy to Blanton Mill near Griffin and worked for Mr. William Blanton
until he died. After he had been here a while, he got married. His
wife's people had the wedding supper and party. He was a fiddler so had
to fiddle most all night then the next day his "white folks" gave him
the food for the wedding dinner that he had at his own house.

Ike says every seven [HW: 7] years the locusts come and its sure to be
a short crop that "God sends all sorts of cusses" (curses) sometimes
its the worms that eat the cotton or the corn or the bugs that eat the
wheat. He doesn't believe in "hants" or "conjurin'". It seems Sid
Scott was a "mean nigger", [HW: and] everyone was afraid of [HW: him].
He was cut in two by the saw mill and after his funeral whenever
anyone pass his house at night that could hear his "hant" going
"rat-a-tat-tat-bang, bang, bang" like feet running.

One night when Ike was coming home from "fiddlin'" at a white folks
party, he had to pass Scott's house. Now they kept the cotton seed in
half of the house and the other half was empty. When Ike got close, he
made a racket and sure enough the noise started. "The moon was about an
hour up" and he saw these funny white things run out from under the
house and scatter. It scared him at first but he looked and looked and
saw they were sheep that [HW: having] found a hole into the cotton seed
would go in at night to eat.

Before the war the negroes had a big celebration on the 4th of July, a
big barbecue, ball game, wrestling matches, lots of music and singing.
They had to have a pass from their Masters to attend and pay to get in.
The "patta-roll" came by to see your pass and if you didn't have one,
they'd whip you and send you home. [HW: When the Negroes first heard
that they were free, they didn't believe it so they just stayed on with
their white folks.]

After he came to Blanton's, the Negroes could come and go as they
pleased for they were free. Ike has been a member of several "Societies"
but something has always happened to the President and Secretary or they
ran off with the money so now he just has a sick and accident policy.

Ike will be 94 years old next month. His hair is white, his eyes blurred
with age, but he's quite active tho' he does walk with a stick.

[HW: Dist 1
Ex-Slave #107]

Age approx. 82

Minnie Branham Stonestreet
[Date Stamp: JAN 26 1937]
[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

A story of happiness and contentment on a big plantation where there
were "a heap of us slaves" is told by Jane Mickens Toombs who said she
was "five er six years ole when de Wah come on (1860), or maby a lit'le

She is a bright old woman, well and spry despite the fact she "wuz
conjured onst when I wuz young an' dat lef' me lame an' dis eye plum'
out an' de t'other bad."

When asked about the conjuring she said: "No'm, I don't 'zackly know how
t'wuz, but enyhow somebody whut knowed how ter 'wu'k roots' got me lame
on dis side, an' my eye out, jess kase I wuz a decent, nice lookin' gal,
an' went on 'tendin' ter my business an' payin' dem no mind. Dat's de
way dey done in dem days, jess jealous of nice colored niggers. Yassum,
I wuz sick fer nigh on ter two years an' de doctuhs never knowed what
ailed me. Dey done everything dey could, but I wuz conjured an' dey
couldn't hep' me. A doctuh-man frum up yander in New Yalk cum down here
ter see his folks, an' he tried to kure [HW: cyore] me, but doctuhs
kain't [HW: kaan't] kure [HW: cyore] conjured folks, so I had ter lay
an' suffer 'til de conjure wore out. Dem whut done dat knowed dey done
me wrong, but I kep' trustin' in my Lawd, an' now dey's gone an' I'se er
stumblin' roun' yit. No mam, I never knowed jess whut dey done ter me,
but hit wuz bad, I kin tell yer dat, hit might nigh kilt me."

Aunt Jane was born on the Gullatt Plantation on the line of Wilkes and
Lincoln counties. Her Mother was Liza Gullatt and her father John
Mickens who belonged to Mr. Augustus McMekin. "Yassum, my Pa wuz John
'Mickens an' his Marster bought him in Alabamy. All de slaves whut
belonged to de McMekins called dey selves 'Mickens. I wuz one of fifteen
chillun an' cum er long in betweenst de oldest 'uns an' de youngest
sum'ers. I wuz named fer my Mistess Jane Gullatt whut died. Young Marse
George Gullatt choosed me out, dough, an' I'd er been his'en ef Freedom
hadn't er come. You know dat's de way dey use ter do back in slavery
time, de young Mistesses an' Marsters choosed out de little niggers dey
wanted fer their'n."

This is another case where the father and mother belonged to different
families. The father had a pass to go and come as he pleased, although
his family lived a little distance away. Jane said her father's master
would have bought her mother if the War hadn't come on and they were set

Jane told of the log cabins in the Quarters where all the negroes lived.
She said they were all in a row "wid er street in de front, er wide
street all set thick wid white mulberry trees fer ter mak' shade fer de
chillun ter play in." They never had any punishment only [HW: except]
switchings by their Mistess, and that was not often. They played dolls,
"us had home-made rag dolls, nice 'uns, an' we'd git dem long grass
plumes (Pampas grass) an' mak' dolls out'n dem too. Us played all day
long every day. My Mistess' chillun wuz all growed up so jess us little
niggers played tergether.

"My Mother spun an' wove de cloth, an' dyed hit, but our Mistess made
our clothes. My Grandma, Nancy, wuz de cook an' she fed all de little
'uns in de big ole kitchen whut sot out in de yard. She had a tray she
put our victuals on an Uh, Uh, whut good things we had ter eat, an' er
plenty of everything! Us et jess whut our white folks had, dey didn't
mak' no difference in us when hit cum ter eatin'. My Grandaddy looked
atter de meat, he done everything 'bout dat, an' he sho' knowed how ter
fix it, too.

"De fust thing I recollects is bein' round in de kitchen when dey wuz
makin' ginger cakes an' my Mistess givin' me de pan she made 'em in fer
me ter sop hit out. Dey ain't nothin' whut smells good lak' de cookin'
in dem days, I kain't smell no victuals lak' dat now. Everything wuz
cooked on a big ole open fire place in one end of de kitchen. Dem good
ole days done gone now. Folkes done got wiser an' wickeder--dey ain't
lak' dey use ter be."

At Christmas Santa Claus found his way to the Quarters on the Gollatt
plantation and each little slave had candy, apples, and "sich good
things as dat." Aunt Jane gave a glowing description of the preparation
for the Christmas season: "Lawdy, how de folks wu'ked gittin' ready fer
Chris'mus, fer three er fo' days dey stayed in de kitchen er cookin' an'
er bakin'--daye wuz de bes' light bread--great big loaves baked on de
fire place, an' cakes an' mo' good ginger cakes. Dey wuz plenty cooked
up to las' er long time. An' another thing, dare want no cookin' on
Sunday, no mam, no wu'k of no kind. My Mistess had de cook cookin' all
day Fridays an' Saddays so when Sunday come dare wuz hot coffee made an'
dat wuz all, everything else wuz cooked up an' cold. Everybody went to
Church, de grown folks white and black, went to de preachin' an' den all
de little niggers wuz called in an de Bible read an' 'splained ter dem.

"Dare wuz preachin' down in de Quarters, but dat wuz at night an' wuz
led by de colored preachers. I recollects one night dare wuz a service
gwine on in one of de cabins an' all us wuz dare an' ole Uncle Alex
Frazier wuz up a linin' off a hymn 'bout

  'Broad is de road dat leads ter Death
   An' there an' here we travel.'

when in come some mens atter a colored feller whut had stole some sheep
an' hogs. Dey kotch 'im, but sho broke up de meetin'. In de hot summer
time Uncle George Gullatt use ter preach ter de slaves out under de
trees. Uncle George waz a kind of er preacher.

"My Pa didn't 'low his chillun ter go 'roun'. No'm, he kep' us home
keerful lak. Young folks in dem days didn't go all over de country lak
dey does now, dey stayed at home, an' little chillun wuz kep' back an'
dey didn' know no badness lak de chillun do terday. Us never even heared
de ole folks talk nothin' whut we oughtn't ter hear. Us jess played an'
stayed in a child's place. When we wuz sick de white folks seed dat we
wuz 'tended to. Dey use ter mak Jerusalem Oak candy an' give us. Dey
took de leaves of dat bush an' boiled 'em an' den use dat water dey wuz
boiled in an' put sugar 'nough in hit ter mak candy. An dey used plenty
of turpentine on us too--plenty ov hit, an' I believes in dat terday,
hit's er good medicine."

When asked about the War, Aunt Jane said she didn't remember much about
it. "But dare's one thing 'bout hit I sho' does 'member, an' dat's my
young Mistess Beckie's husband, Mr. Frazier, being off fightin' in de
Wah, an' she gittin' er letter frum him sayin' he wuz comin' home sich
an' sich er day. She wuz so happy she had all de grown slaves wu'kin'
gittin' ready fer him. Den dey brung her er letter sayin' he had been
kilt, an' she wuz in de yard when she read hit an' if dey hadn't er
kotch her she'd ov fell. I 'members de women takin' her in de house an'
gittin' her ter bed. She wuz so up sot an' took hit so hard. Dem wuz
sho' hard times an' sad 'uns too. 'Course I wuz too small ter know much
whut wuz gwine on, but I could tell hit wuz bad frum de way de older
folks looked.

"I recollects when dey say Freedom had cum. Dare wuz a speakin' fer de
slaves up here in town in Barnett's Grove. Dat mornin' Ole Miss sont all
de oldes' niggers to de speakin' an' kep' us little 'uns dat day. She
kep' us busy sweepin' de yards an' sich as dat. An' she cooked our
dinner an' give hit to us herself. I 'members de grown folks leavin'
early dat mornin' in a great big waggin.

"A while after de Wah, Pa took us over to de McMekins place an' we lived
dare fer a long time. He died an' lef' us an' den us had ter do de bes'
we could. Col. Tolbert hired me fer ter nuss his chillun an' I went over
ter his place ter live."

Aunt Jane said she isn't superstitious, but likes to see the new moon
clear and bow to it for good luck. She said it is better to show it a
piece of money, but as she doesn't always have money handy, she "jess
bows to hit nice an' polite". She keeps up with the weather by her
rheumatism and the cat: "Ef I has de reumatics I knows hit's gwine ter
rain, an' when de cat comes 'round an' sets washin' her face, look fer
rain, kase hit's er comin'. I've heared folks say dat hit's bad luck ter
stump yo' lef' foot, but I don't know boud dat. But I tell yer, when I
meets er cat I allus turns er round 'fore I goes on, dat turns de bad
luck er way."

When 19 years of age Jane married Albert Toombs. He belonged to the
Toombs family of Wilkes county. Aunt Jane said Albert brought her many
gifts while he was courting: "He warnt much on bringin' candy an'
nothin' lak dat ter eat, but he brung me shawls an' shoes--sumpin' I
could wear." They had four children, but only one is living.

"When I wuz a growin' up", said Aunt Jane, "folks had ter wu'k." She
worked on the farm, spun, wove, "done seamster wu'k" and knitted
stockings, sox and gloves. She said she carded too, "an' in dem times ef
a nigger wanted ter git de kinks out'n dey hair, dey combed hit wid de
cards. Now dey puts all kinds ov grease on hit, an' buy straightenin'
combs. Sumpin' dat costs money, dat's all dey is, old fashion cards'll
straighten hair jess as well as all dis high smellin' stuff dey sells

Aunt Jane likes to tell of those days of long ago. Her memory is
excellent and she talks well. She says she is living out her Miss Jane's
time. "Yassum, my Miss Jane died when she wuz so young, I specks I jess
livin' out her days kase I named fer her. But I does miss dem good ole
days whut's gone. I'se hungry fer de sight ov a spinnin' wheel--does you
know whare's one? Things don't look lak' dey use ter, an' as fer whut we
has ter eat, dare ain't no victuals ever smelled an' et as good as dem
what dey use ter have on de plantation when I wuz a comin' on. Yassum,
folkes has got wiser an' know mo' dan dey did, but dey is wickeder--dey
kills now 'stid er conjurin' lak' dey did me."

[HW: Dist. 7
Ex-slave #108]
District 7
Adella S. Dixon

[Date Stamp: -- 8 1937]

[TR: This interview contained many handwritten edits; where text was
transposed, meaning was significantly changed, or the edit could not be
clearly read, it has been noted.]

On June 25, 1824, a son was born to Washington and Clara Towns who
resided in Richmond, Virginia. This was the fourth child in a family
which finally numbered thirteen. Phil, as he was called, does not recall
many incidents on this estate as the family moved when he was in his
teens. His grandfather and grandmother were brought here from Africa and
their description of the cruel treatment they received is his most vivid
recollection. His grandmother, Hannah, lived to be 129 years of age.

Mr. George Towns, called "Governor" by all of his slaves as well as his
intimate friends, moved to Georgia and settled at Reynolds in Taylor
County. Here he purchased a huge tract of land--1350 acres--and built
his new home upon this level area on the Flint River. The "big house," a
large unpainted structure which housed a family of eighteen, was in the
midst of a grove of trees near the highway that formed one of the
divisions of the plantation. It was again divided by a local railway
nearly a mile from the rear of the house. Eighty-eight slaves were
housed in the "quarters" which were on each side of the highway a little
below the planter's home.

These "quarters" differed from those found in the surrounding territory
as the size of the houses varied with the number in the family. The
interiors were nicely furnished and in most instances the families were
able to secure any furniture they desired. Feather mattresses, trundle
beds and cribs were common and in families where there were many
children, large fireplaces--some as many as eight feet wide--were
provided so that every one might be [TR: 'able to keep' crossed out]
comfortable in winter. A variety of cooking utensils were given and
large numbers of waffle irons, etc., then considered luxuries, were
found here.

To consider only the general plan of operation, this plantation was no
different from the average one in pre-civil war days but there was a
phase of the life here which made it a most unusual home. "Governor" was
so exceptionally kind to his slaves that they were known as "Gov. Towns'
free negroes" to those on the neighboring farms. He never separated
families, neither did he strike a slave except on rare occasions. Two
things which might provoke his anger to this extent, were: to be told a
lie, and to find that a person had allowed some one to take advantage of
him. They were never given passes but obtained verbal consent to go
where they wished and always remained as long as they chose.

Phil Towns' father worked in the field and his mother did light work in
the house, such as assisting in spinning. Mothers of three or more
children were not compelled to work, as the master felt that their
children needed care. From early childhood boys and girls were given
excellent training. A boy who robbed a bird's nest or a girl who
frolicked in a boisterous manner was severely reprimanded. Separate
bedrooms for the two sexes were maintained until they married. The girls
passed thru two stages--childhood, and at sixteen they became "gals".
Three years later they might marry if they chose but the husband had to
be older--at least 21. Courtships differed from those of today because
there were certain hours for visiting and even though the girl might
accompany her sweetheart away from home she had to be back at that hour.
They had no clocks but a "time mark" was set by the sun. A young man was
not allowed to give his girl any form of gift, and the efforts of some
girls to secretly receive gifts which they claimed to have "found", were
in vain, for these were taken from them. After the proposal, the
procedure was practically the same as is observed today. The consent of
the parent and the master was necessary. Marriages were mostly held at
night and no pains were spared to make them occasions to be remembered
and cherished. Beautiful clothes--her own selections--were given the
bride, and friends usually gave gifts for the house. These celebrations,
attended by visitors from many plantations, and always by the Towns
family, ended in gay "frolics" with cakes, wine, etc., for refreshments.

During the first year of married life the couple remained with the
bride's mother who instructed her in the household arts. Disputes
between the newlyweds were not tolerated and punishment by the parents
was the result of "nagging". At the end of a year, another log cabin was
added to the quarters and the couple began housekeeping. The moral code
was exceedingly high; the penalty for offenders--married or single,
white or colored--was to be banished from the group entirely. Thus
illegitimate children were rare enough to be a novelty.

Young Phil was in his teens when he began his first job--coach driver
for "Gov." Towns. This was just before they moved to Georgia. He
traveled with him wherever he went, and as the Gov. purchased a
plantation in Talbot County, (the house still stands), and a home in
Macon, (the site of Mt. De Sales Academy), a great deal of his time was
spent on the road. Phil never did any other work except to occasionally
assist in sweeping the large yard. The other members of this group split
rails, did field work, spinning, tailoring and any of the many things
that had to be done. Each person might choose the type of work he liked

Opportunities to make cash money were plentiful. Some made baskets and
did hand work which was sold and the money given the maker. A man or
woman who paid Gov. Towns $150.00 might hire himself to the Gov. for a
year. When this was done he was paid cash for all the work he did and
many were able to clear several hundred dollars in a year. In addition
to this opportunity for earning money, every adult had an acre of ground
which he might cultivate as he chose. Any money made from the sale of
this produce was his own.

Recreation was not considered important so no provision was made in the
regular routine. It was, however, possible to obtain "time off" at
frequent intervals and these might be termed irregular vacation periods.
Evening entertainment at which square dancing was the main attraction,
were common. Quill music, from a homemade harmonica, was played when
banjoes were not available. These instruments were made by binding with
cane five to ten reeds of graduated lengths. A hole was cut in the upper
end of each and the music obtained by blowing up and down the scale.
Guests came from all neighboring farms and engaged in the "Green Corn"
dance which was similar to what is now called Buck dancing. Near the end
of such a hilarious evening, the guests were served with persimmon beer
and ginger cakes,--then considered delicacies.

"Gov." Towns was interested in assisting any one [HW: wanting to learn].
[TR: Original reads 'desirous of learning.'] The little girls who
expressed the desire to become "ladies" were kept in the "big house" and
very carefully trained. The tastes of these few were developed to the
extent that they excelled the ordinary "quarter" children and were the
envy of the group at social affairs.

Sunday was a day of Reverence and all adults were required to attend
religious services. The trip was usually made in wagons, oxcarts, etc.,
although the young women of the big house rode handsome saddle horses.
At each church there was placed a stepping block by which they descended
from their steeds. White and colored worshipped at the same church,
constructed with a partition separating the two parts of the
congregation but not extending to the pulpit. Professions of faith were
accepted at the same altar while Baptismal services ware held at a local
creek and all candidates were baptized on the same day. Regular clothing
was worn at this service. Children were not allowed to attend church,
and christenings were not common. Small boys, reared entirely apart from
strict religious observances, used to slip away and shoot marbles on

The health problem was not acute as these people were provided with
everything necessary for a contented mind and a robust body. [TR:
original line: The health problem was not a very acute one as these
people were provided with everything conducive to a contented mind which
plays a large part in maintaining a robust body.] However, a Doctor who
lived nearby cared for the sick. Two fees were set--the larger one being
charged if the patient recovered. Home remedies were used for minor
ills--catnip tea for thrash, tea from Samson Snakeroot for cramps,
redwood and dogwood bark tea [HW: and horehound candy] for worms, [HW:
many] root teas used [HW: medicinally] by this generation. Peach brandy
was given to anyone suspected of having pneumonia,--if the patient
coughed, it was certain that he was a victim of the disease.

In these days, a mother named her children by a name [TR: unreadable]
during pregnancy. [TR: original line: In these days, it was always
thought best for the mother to name her children if the proper name for
the babe was theoretically revealed to her during pregnancy.] If another
name was given the child, the correct one would be so firmly implanted
in his subconscious mind that he would never be able to resist the
impulse to turn his head when that name was called. The seventh child
was always thought to be exceptionally lucky, and [TR: unreadable HW
replaces 'the bond of affection between the parents and this child was
greater']. This belief persists today in many localities.

Every family was given a weekly supply of food but this was more for
convenience than anything else as they were free to eat anything their
appetites called for. They killed chickens, ate vegetables, meats, etc.
at any time. The presence of guests at the "quarters" roused Mrs. Towns
to activity and she always helped to prepare the menu. One of her
favorite items was chicken--prepared four different ways, in pie, in
stew, fried, and baked. She gave full directions for the preparation of
these delicacies to unskilled cooks. Pound cake was another favorite and
she insisted that a pound of butter and a dozen eggs be used in each
cake. When the meal was nearly ready, she usually made a trip to the
cabin to see if it had been well prepared. The hostess could always tell
without any comment whether she had satisfied her mistress, for if she
had, a serving was carried back to the big house. Fishing was a form of
remunerative recreation enjoyed by all. Everyone usually went on
Saturday afternoon, but if only a few made the trip, the catch was
shared by all.

Sewing was no easy job as there were few small women among the servants.
The cloth made at home, was plentiful, however, and sufficient clothing
was made for all. Some persons preferred making their own clothes and
this privilege was granted; otherwise they were made in a common sewing
room. Ten yards was the average amount of cloth in a dress, homespun and
gingham, the usual materials. The men wore suits of osnaburg and jeans.
This was dyed to more durable colors through the use of [HW: with]
indigo [HW: (blue)] and a dye made from railroad bark (brown).

Phil believes that the screeching of an owl, the bellowing of a cow, and
the howling of a dog after dark are signs of death because the [HW:
immediate] death of a human being is revealed to animals, which [TR:
illegible. 'in turn'?] warn humans. Though we may find some way to rid
ourselves of the fear of the warning--the death will occur just the

On nearly all plantations there were some slaves who, trying to escape
work, hid themselves in the woods. [TR: original line: On nearly all
plantations there were some slaves who did not wish to work,
consequently, for this, or similar reasons, hid themselves in the
woods.] They smuggled food to their hiding place by night, and remained
away [HW: lost] in some instances, many months. Their belief in
witchcraft caused them to resort to most ridiculous means of avoiding
discovery. Phil told the story of a man who visited a conjurer to obtain
a "hand" for which he paid fifty dollars in gold. The symbol was a
hickory stick which he used whenever he was being chased, and in this
manner warded off his pursuers. The one difficulty in this procedure was
having to "set up" at a fork or cross roads. Often the fugitive had to
run quite a distance to reach such a spot, but when the stick was so
placed human beings and even bloodhounds lost his trail. With this
assistance, he was able to remain in the woods as long as he liked.

Snakes ware frequent visitor in the cabins of the "quarters". One
morning while Betty, a cook, was confined to bed, she sent for Mrs.
Towns to tell her that a snake had lain across her chest during the
previous night and had tried to get under the cover where her young baby
lay asleep. Mrs. Towns was skeptical about the size and activities of
the reptile but sent for several men to search the house. They had given
up the search when one chanced to glance above the sick woman's bed and
there lay the reptile on a shelf. The bed was roped and moved to another
part of the room and preparations made to shoot him. Quilts were piled
high on the bed so that the noise of the gun would not frighten the
baby. When all was ready Mrs. Towns asked the old man with the gun--

"Daddy Luke, can you _kill_ the snake?"

"Yessum, mistress," he replied.

"Daddy Luke, can you _kill_ the snake?"

"Yessum, mistress."

"Daddy Luke, can you _kill_ the snake?"

"Yessum, mistress."


He took careful aim and fired. The huge reptile rolled to the floor.

When the men returned to the yard to work near the woodpile, the mate
was discovered by one of the dogs that barked until a log was moved and
the second snake killed.

[HW: In those days] small snakes were not feared and for several years
it was customary for women to carry a tiny green snake in their bosoms.
This fad was discontinued when one of the women was severely injured
through a bite on her chest.

Phil remembers when the stars fell in 1833. "They came down like rain,"
he said. When asked why he failed to keep some, he replied that he was
afraid to touch them even after they became black.

[TR: The following paragraphs contain many crossouts replaced by
unreadable handwritten edits, and will be indicated by: 'deleted words'
replaced by ??.]

Freedom was discussed on the plantation [TR: ??] for many years before
the Civil War began. As contented as [TR: 'they' replaced by ??] were
[TR: 'there was something to look forward to when they thought of'
replaced by ??] being absolutely free. An ex-slave's description of the
real cause of the Civil War, deserves a place here. It seems that
Lincoln had sent several messages to Davis requesting that he free the
slaves. No favorable response was received. Lincoln had a conference
with Mr. Davis and to this meeting he carried a Bible and a gun. He
tried in vain to convince Davis that he was wrong according to the
Bible, so he finally threw the two upon the table and asked Davis to
take his choice. He chose the gun. Lincoln grasped the Bible and rushed
home. Thus Davis _began_ the war but Lincoln had God on his side and so
he _ended_ it.

One of Gov. Towns' sons went to the army and Phil was sent to care for
him while he was there; an aristocratic man never went to the war
without his valet. His [HW: Phil's] duty was to cook for him, keep his
clothes clean, and to bring the body home if he was killed. Poor
soldiers were either buried [HW: where they fell] or left lying on the
field for vultures to consume. Food was not so plentiful in the [TR:
'army' replaced by ??] and their diet of flapjacks and canned goods was
varied only by coffee and whiskey given when off duty. All cooking was
done between two battles or during the lull in a battle. John Towns was
soon sent back home as they [HW: the officers] felt he was too [TR:
'valuable a Southerner' crossed out] important to be killed in battle,
and his services were needed at home.

Near the close of the war, Sherman made a visit to this vicinity. As was
his usual habit, he had [TR: 'obtained' replaced by 'learned'?] the
reputation of Gov. Towns before he arrived. He found conditions so ideal
[TR: 'that not one thing was touched' replaced by ??]. He talked with
[HW: slaves and owners, he] went [TR: 'gaily' deleted] on his way. Phil
was so impressed by Sherman that he followed him and camped with the
Yankees about where Central City Park is now. He thought that anything a
Yankee said was true. [HW: When] One [HW: of them] gave him a knife and
told him to go and cut the first man he met, he followed instructions
even though he knew the man. [HW: Later] Realizing how foolishly he had
acted, he readily apologized and explained why. [HW: The Yankee soldiers
robbed beehives barehanded and were never stung, they] seemed to fear
nothing but lizards. Never having seen such reptiles they would run in
terror at the sight of one. The Confederates never discovered this.

After the close of the war they [HW: federal soldiers] were stationed in
the towns to keep order. Union flags were placed everywhere, and a
Southerner was accused of not respecting the flag if he even passed
under one without bowing. Penalties for this offense were, to be hung up
by the thumbs, to carry greasy [HW: greased] poles for a certain time,
and numerous other punishments which caused a deal of discomfort to the
victims but sent the soldiers and ex-slaves into peals of laughter. The
sight of a Yankee soldier sent a Confederate one into hysteria.

[HW: Phil says his fellow] slaves laughed when told they were free, but
Gov. Towns was almost indifferent. His slaves, he said, were always
practically free, so a little legal form did not [TR: 'add' replaced by
??] much to them. Nearly every one remained there and worked for wages.

For the past thirty-five years, Phil Towns has been almost totally
disabled. Long life seems no novelty to him for he says everyone used to
live longer when they honored their elders more. He has eighty-four
relatives in Virginia--all older than he, but states that friends who
have visited there say he looks more aged than any of them. His great
desire is to return to Virginia, as he believes he will be able to find
the familiar landmarks in spite of the changes that have taken place.

Mr. Alex Block, of Macon, makes no charges for the old shack in which
Phil lives; his food furnished by the Department of Public Welfare is
supplemented by interested friends.


450 4th Street
Athens, Georgia

Written by:
Miss Grace McCune [HW: (White)]

Edited by:
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall

John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7
Augusta, Ga.

August 5, 1938

Alternate rain and sunshine had continued for about 10 days and the
ditches half filled with water, slippery banks of red clay, and the
swollen river necessitating a detour, added to the various difficulties
that beset the interviewer as she trudged through East Athens in search
of Neal Upson's shabby, three-room, frame house. A magnificent water oak
shaded the vine-covered porch where a rocking chair and swing offered a
comfortable place to rest.

"Good mornin', Miss," was the smiling greeting of the aged Negro man who
answered a knock on the front door. "How is you? Won't you come in? I
would ax you to have a cheer on the porch, but I has to stay in de house
cause de light hurts my eyes." He had hastily removed a battered old
felt hat, several sizes too large for him, and as he shuffled down the
hall his hair appeared almost white as it framed his black face. His
clean, but faded blue overalls and shirt were patched in several places
and heavy brogans completed his costume. The day was hot and humid and
he carefully placed two chairs where they would have the advantage of
any breeze that might find its way through the open hallway.

"Miss, I'se mighty glad you come today," he began, "cause I does git so
lonesome here by myself. My old 'oman wuks up to de court'ouse, cookin'
for de folkses in jail, and it's allus late when she gits back home.
'Scuse me for puttin' my old hat back on, but dese old eyes jus' can't
stand de light even here in the hall, less I shades 'em."

When asked to tell the story of his life, he chuckled. "Lawsy, Missy,"
he said. "Does you mean dat you is willin' to set here and listen to old
Neal talk? 'Tain't many folkses what wants to hear us old Niggers talk
no more. I jus' loves to think back on dem days 'cause dem was happy
times, so much better'n times is now. Folkses was better den. Dey was
allus ready to holp one another, but jus' look how dey is now!

"I was borned on Marster Frank Upson's place down in Oglethorpe County,
nigh Lexin'ton, Georgy. Marster had a plantation, but us never lived dar
for us stayed at de home place what never had more'n 'bout 80 acres of
land 'round it. Us never had to be trottin' to de sto' evvy time us
started to cook, 'cause what warn't raised on de home place, Marster had
'em raise out on de big plantation. Evvything us needed t'eat and wear
was growed on Marse Frank's land.

"Harold and Jane Upson was my Daddy and Mammy; only folkses jus' called
Daddy 'Hal.' Both of 'em was raised right der on de Upson place whar dey
played together whilst dey was chillun. Mammy said she had washed and
sewed for Daddy ever since she was big enough, and when dey got grown
dey jus' up and got married. I was deir only boy and I was de baby
chile, but dey had four gals older'n me. Dey was: Cordelia, Anna,
Parthene, and Ella. Ella was named for Marse Frank's onliest chile,
little Miss Ellen, and our little Miss was sho a good little chile.

"Daddy made de shoes for all de slaves on de plantation and Mammy was
called de house 'oman. She done de cookin' up at de big 'ouse, and made
de cloth for her own fambly's clothes, and she was so smart us allus had
plenty t'eat and wear. I was little and stayed wid Mammy up at de big
'ouse and jus' played all over it and all de folkses up der petted me.
Aunt Tama was a old slave too old to wuk. She was all de time cookin'
gingerbread and hidin' it in a little trunk what sot by de fireplace in
her room. When us chillun was good Aunt Tama give us gingerbread, but if
us didn't mind what she said, us didn't git none. Aunt Tama had de
rheumatiz and walked wid a stick and I could git in dat trunk jus' 'bout
anytime I wanted to. I sho' did git 'bout evvything dem other chillun
had, swappin' Aunt Tama's gingerbread. When our white folkses went off,
Aunt Tama toted de keys, and she evermore did make dem Niggers stand
'round. Marse Frank jus' laughed when dey made complaints 'bout her.

"In summertime dey cooked peas and other veg'tables for us chillun in a
washpot out in de yard in de shade, and us et out of de pot wid our
wooden spoons. Dey jus' give us wooden bowls full of bread and milk for

"Marse Frank said he wanted 'em to larn me how to wait on de white
folkses' table up at de big 'ouse, and dey started me off wid de job of
fannin' de flies away. Mist'ess Serena, Marse Frank's wife, made me a
white coat to wear in de dinin' room. Missy, dat little old white coat
made me git de onliest whuppin' Marse Frank ever did give me." Here old
Neal paused for a hearty laugh. "Us had comp'ny for dinner dat day and I
felt so big showin' off 'fore 'em in dat white coat dat I jus' couldn't
make dat turkey wing fan do right. Dem turkey wings was fastened on long
handles and atter Marster had done warned me a time or two to mind what
I was 'bout, the old turkey wing went down in de gravy bowl and when I
jerked it out it splattered all over de preacher's best Sunday suit.
Marse Frank got up and tuk me right out to de kitchen and when he got
through brushin' me off I never did have no more trouble wid dem turkey

"Evvybody cooked on open fireplaces dem days. Dey had swingin' racks
what dey called cranes to hang de pots on for bilin'. Dere was ovens for
bakin' and de heavy iron skillets had long handles. One of dem old
skillets was so big dat Mammy could cook 30 biscuits in it at one time.
I allus did love biscuits, and I would go out in de yard and trade Aunt
Tama's gingerbread to de other chilluns for deir sheer of biscuits. Den
dey would be skeered to eat de gingerbread 'cause I told 'em I'd tell on
'em. Aunt Tama thought dey was sick and told Marse Frank de chilluns
warn't eatin' nothin'. He axed 'em what was de matter and dey told him
dey had done traded all deir bread to me. Marse Frank den axed me if I
warn't gittin' enough t'eat, 'cause he 'lowed dere was enough dar for
all. Den Aunt Tama had to go and tell on me. She said I was wuss dan a
hog atter biscuits, so our good Marster ordered her to see dat li'l Neal
had enough t'eat.

"I ain't never gwine to forgit dat whuppin' my own daddy give me. He had
jus' sharpened up a fine new axe for hisself, and I traded it off to a
white boy named _Roar_ what lived nigh us when I seed him out tryin' to
cut wood wid a sorry old dull axe. I sold him my daddy's fine new axe
for 5 biscuits. When he found out 'bout dat, he 'lowed he was gwine to
give me somepin to make me think 'fore I done any more tradin' of his
things. Mist'eas, let me tell you, dat beatin' he give me evermore was
a-layin' on of de rod.

"One day Miss Serena put me in de cherry tree to pick cherries for her,
and she told me not to eat none 'til I finished; den I could have all I
wanted, but I didn't mind her and I et so many cherries I got sick and
fell out of de tree. Mist'ess was skeered, but Marse Frank said: 'It's
good enough for him, 'cause he didn't mind.'

"Mammy never did give me but one whuppin' neither. Daddy was gwine to de
circus and I jus' cut up 'bout it 'cause I wanted to go so bad. Mist'ess
give me some cake and I hushed long as I was eatin', but soon as de last
cake crumb was swallowed I started bawlin' again. She give me a stick of
candy and soon as I et dat I was squallin' wuss dan ever. Mammy told
Mist'ess den det she knowed how to quiet me and she retch under de bed
for a shoe. When she had done finished layin' dat shoe on me and put it
back whar she got it, I was sho willin' to shet my mouth and let 'em all
go to de circus widout no more racket from me.

"De fust school I went to was in a little one-room 'ouse in our white
folkses' back yard. Us had a white teacher and all he larnt slave
chillun was jus' plain readin' and writin'. I had to pass Dr.
Willingham's office lots and he was all de time pesterin' me 'bout
spellin'. One day he stopped me and axed me if I could spell 'bumble bee
widout its tail,' and he said dat when I larnt to spell it, he would
gimme some candy. Mr. Sanders, at Lexin'ton, gimme a dime onct. It was
de fust money I ever had. I was plumb rich and I never let my Daddy have
no peace 'til he fetched me to town to do my tradin'. I was all sot to
buy myself a hat, a sto-bought suit of clothes, and some shoes what
warn't brogans, but Missy, I wound up wid a gingercake and a nickel's
wuth of candy. I used to cry and holler evvy time Miss Serena went off
and left me. Whenever I seed 'em gittin' out de carriage to hitch it up,
I started beggin' to go. Sometimes she laughed and said; 'All right
Neal.' But when she said, 'No Neal,' I snuck out and hid under de
high-up carrigge seat and went along jus' de same. Mist'ess allus found
me 'fore us got back home, but she jus' laughed and said: 'Well, Neal's
my little nigger anyhow.'

"Dem old cord beds was a sight to look at, but dey slept good. Us
cyarded lint cotton into bats for mattresses and put 'em in a tick what
us tacked so it wouldn't git lumpy. Us never seed no iron springs dem
days. Dem cords, criss-crossed from one side of de bed to de other, was
our springs and us had keys to tighten 'em wid. If us didn't tighten 'em
evvy few days dem beds was apt to fall down wid us. De cheers was
homemade too and de easiest-settin' ones had bottoms made out of rye
splits. Dem oak-split cheers was all right, and sometimes us used cane
to bottom de cheers but evvybody laked to set in dem cheers what had
bottoms wove out of rye splits.

"Marster had one of dem old cotton gins what didn't have no engines. It
was wuked by mules. Dem old mules was hitched to a long pole what dey
pulled 'round and 'round to make de gin do its wuk. Dey had some gins in
dem days what had treadmills for de mules to walk in. Dem old treadmills
looked sorter lak stairs, but most of 'em was turned by long poles what
de mules pulled. You had to feed de cotton by hand to dem old gins and
you sho had to be keerful or you was gwine to lose a hand and maybe a
arm. You had to jump in dem old cotton presses and tread de cotton down
by hand. It tuk most all day long to gin two bales of cotton and if dere
was three bales to be ginned us had to wuk most all night to finish up.

"Dey mixed wool wid de lint cotton to spin thread to make cloth for our
winter clothes. Mammy wove a lot of dat cloth and de clothes made out of
it sho would keep out de cold. Most of our stockin's and socks was knit
at home, but now and den somebody would git hold of a sto-bought pair
for Sunday-go-to-meetin' wear.

"Colored folkses went to church wid deir own white folkses and sot in de
gallery. One Sunday us was all settin' in dat church listenin' to de
white preacher, Mr. Hansford, tellin' how de old debbil was gwine to git
dem what didn't do right." Here Neal burst into uncontrollable laughter.
His sides shook and tears ran down his face. Finally he began his story
again: "Missy, I jus' got to tell you 'bout dat day in de meetin' 'ouse.
A Nigger had done run off from his marster and was hidin' out from one
place to another. At night he would go steal his somepin t'eat. He had
done stole some chickens and had 'em wid him up in de church steeple
whar he was hidin' dat day. When daytime come he went off to sleep lak
Niggers will do when dey ain't got to hustle, and when he woke up
Preacher Hansford was tellin' 'em 'bout de debbil was gwine to git de
sinners. Right den a old rooster what he had stole up and crowed so loud
it seemed lak Gabriel's trumpet on Judment Day. Dat runaway Nigger was
skeered 'cause he knowed dey was gwine to find him sho, but he warn't
skeered nuffin' compared to dem Niggers settin' in de gallery. Dey jus'
knowed dat was de voice of de debbil what had done come atter 'em. Dem
Niggers never stopped prayin' and testifyin' to de Lord, 'til de white
folkses had done got dat runaway slave and de rooster out of de steeple.
His marster was der and tuk him home and give him a good, sound

"Slaves was 'lowed to have prayermeetin' on Chuesday (Tuesday) and
Friday 'round at de diffunt plantations whar deir marsters didn't keer,
and dere warn't many what objected. De good marsters all give deir
slaves prayermeetin' passes on dem nights so de patterollers wouldn't
git 'em and beat 'em up for bein' off deir marster's lands. Dey 'most
nigh kilt some slaves what dey cotch out when dey didn't have no pass.
White preachers done de talkin' at de meetin'houses, but at dem Chuesday
and Friday night prayermeetin's, it was all done by Niggers. I was too
little to 'member much 'bout dem meetin's, but my older sisters used to
talk lots 'bout 'em long atter de war had brung our freedom. Dere warn't
many slaves what could read, so dey jus' talked 'bout what dey had done
heared de white preachers say on Sunday. One of de fav'rite texties was
de third chapter of John, and most of 'em jus' 'membered a line or two
from dat. Missy, from what folkses said 'bout dem meetin's, dere was sho
a lot of good prayin' and testifyin', 'cause so many sinners repented
and was saved. Sometimes at dem Sunday meetin's at de white folkses'
church dey would have two or three preachers de same dey. De fust one
would give de text and preach for at least a hour, den another one would
give a text and do his preachin', and 'bout dat time another one would
rise up and say dat dem fust two brudders had done preached enough to
save 3,000 souls, but dat he was gwine to try to double dat number. Den
he would do his preachin' and atter dat one of dem others would git up
and say: 'Brudders and Sisters, us is all here for de same and only
purpose--dat of savin' souls. Dese other good brudders is done preached,
talked, and prayed, and let the gap down; now I'm gwine to raise it. Us
is gwine to git 'ligion enough to take us straight through dem pearly
gates. Now, let us sing whilst us gives de new brudders and sisters de
right hand of fellowship. One of dem old songs went sort of lak dis:

  'Must I be born to die
   And lay dis body down?'

"When dey had done finished all de verses and choruses of dat dey

  'Amazin' Grace, How sweet de sound
   Dat saved a wretch lak me.'

"'Fore dey stopped dey usually got 'round to singin':

  'On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
   And cast a wishful eye,
   To Canaan's fair and happy land
   Whar my possessions lie.'

"Dey could keep dat up for hours and it was sho' good singin', for dat's
one thing Niggers was born to do--to sing when dey gits 'ligion.

"When old Aunt Flora come up and wanted to jine de church she told 'bout
how she had done seed de Hebenly light and changed her way of livin'.
Folkses testified den 'bout de goodness of de Lord and His many
blessin's what He give to saints and sinners, but dey is done stopped
givin' Him much thanks any more. Dem days, dey 'zamined folkses 'fore
dey let 'em jine up wid de church. When dey started 'zaminin' Aunt
Flora, de preacher axed her: 'Is you done been borned again and does you
believe dat Jesus Christ done died to save sinners?' Aunt Flora she
started to cry; and she said: 'Lordy, Is He daid? Us didn't know dat. If
my old man had done 'scribed for de paper lak I told him to, us would
have knowed when Jesus died?" Neal giggled. "Missy," he said, "ain't dat
jus' lak one of dem old-time Niggers? Dey jus' tuk dat for ign'ance and
let her come on into de church.

"Dem days it was de custom for marsters to hire out what slaves dey had
dat warn't needed to wuk on deir own land, so our marster hired out two
of my sisters. Sis' Anna hired to a fambly 'bout 16 miles from our
place. She didn't lak it dar so she run away and I found her hid out in
our 'tater 'ouse. One day when us was playin' she called to me right low
and soft lak and told me she was hongry and for me to git her somepin
t'eat but not to tell nobody she was dar. She said she had been dar
widout nothin' t'eat for several days. She was skeered Marster might
whup her. She looked so thin and bad I thought she was gwine to die, so
I told Mammy. Her and Marster went and brung Anna to de 'ouse and fed
her. Dat pore chile was starved most to death. Marster kept her at home
for 3 weeks and fed her up good, den he carried her back and told dem
folkses what had hired her dat dey had better treat Anna good and see
dat she had plenty t'eat. Marster was drivin' a fast hoss dat day, but
bless your heart, Anna beat him back home dat day. She cried and tuk on
so, beggin' him not to take her back dar no more dat he told her she
could stay home. My other sister stayed on whar she was hired out 'til
de war was over and dey give us our freedom.

"Daddy had done hid all Old Marster's hosses when de yankees got to our
plantation. Two of de ridin' hosses was in de smokehouse and another
good trotter was in de hen 'ouse. Old Jake was a slave what warn't right
bright. He slep' in de kitchen, and he knowed whar Daddy had hid dem
hosses, but dat was all he knowed. Marster had give Daddy his money to
hide too, and he tuk some of de plasterin' off de wall in Marster's room
and put de box of money inside de wall. Den he fixed dat plasterin' back
so nice you couldn't tell it had ever been tore off. De night dem
yankees come, Daddy had gone out to de wuk 'ouse to git some pegs to fix
somepin (us didn't have no nails dem days). When de yankees rid up to de
kitchen door and found Old Jake right by hisself, dat pore old fool was
skeered so bad he jus' started right off babblin' 'bout two hosses in de
smoke'ouse and one in de hen 'ouse, but he was tremblin' so he couldn't
talk plain. Old Marster heared de fuss dey made and he come down to de
kitchen to see what was de matter. De yankees den ordered Marster to git
'em his hosses. Marster called Daddy and told him to git de hosses, but
Daddy, he played foolish lak and stalled 'round lak he didn't have good
sense. Dem sojers raved and fussed all night long 'bout dem hosses, but
dey never thought 'bout lookin' in de smoke'ouse and hen 'ouse for 'em
and 'bout daybreak dey left widout takin' nothin'. Marster said he was
sho proud of my Daddy for savin' dem good hosses for him.

[TR: 'Horses saved' written in margin.]

"Marster had a long pocketbook what fastened at one end wid a ring. One
day when he went to git out some money he dropped a roll of bills dat he
never seed, but Daddy picked it up and handed it back to him right away.
Now my Daddy could have kept dat money jus' as easy, but he was a
'ceptional man and believed evvbody ought to do right.

"Aunt Tama's old man, Uncle Griff, come to live wid her on our place
atter de war was over. 'Fore den he had belonged to a man named
Colquitt.[HW: !!] Marster pervided a home for him and Aunt Tama 'til dey
was both daid. When dey was buildin' de fust colored Methodist church in
dat section Uncle Griff give a whole hundred dollars to de buildin'
fund. Now it tuk a heap of scrimpin' for him to save dat much money
'cause he never had made over $10 a month. Aunt Tama had done gone to
Glory a long time when Uncle Griff died. Atter dey buried him dey come
back and was 'rangin' de things in his little cabin. When dey moved dat
little trunk what Aunt Tama used to keep gingerbread in, dey found jus'
lots of money in it. Marster tuk keer of dat money 'til he found Uncle
Griff's own sister and den he give it all to her.

"One time Marster missed some of his money and he didn't want to 'cuse
nobody, so he 'cided he would find out who had done de debbilment. He
put a big rooster in a coop wid his haid stickin' out. Den he called all
de Niggers up to de yard and told 'em somebody had been stealin' his
money, and dat evvybody must git in line and march 'round dat coop and
tetch it. He said dat when de guilty ones tetched it de old rooster
would crow. Evvybody tetched it 'cept one old man and his wife; dey jus'
wouldn't come nigh dat coop whar dat rooster was a-lookin' at evvybody
out of his little red eyes. Marster had dat old man and 'oman sarched
and found all de money what had been stole.

"Mammy died about a year atter de war, and I never will forgit how
Mist'ess cried and said: 'Neal, your mammy is done gone, and I don't
know what I'll do widout her.' Not long atter dat, Daddy bid for de
contract to carry de mail and he got de place, but it made de white
folkses mighty mad, 'cause some white folkses had put in bids for dat
contract. Dey 'lowed dat Daddy better not never start out wid dat mail,
'cause if he did he was gwine to be sorry. Marster begged Daddy not to
risk it and told him if he would stay dar wid him he would let him have
a plantation for as long as he lived, and so us stayed on dar 'til Daddy
died, and a long time atter dat us kept on wukin' for Old Marster.

"White folkses owned us back in de days 'fore de war but our own white
folkses was mighty good to deir slaves. Dey had to larn us 'bedience
fust, how to live right, and how to treat evvybody else right; but de
best thing dey larned us was how to do useful wuk. De onliest time I
'member stealin' anything 'cept Aunt Tama's gingerbread was one time
when I went to town wid Daddy in de buggy. When us started back home a
man got in de seat wid Daddy and I had to ride down in de back of de
buggy whar Daddy had hid a jug of liquor. I could hear it slushin'
'round and so I got to wantin' to know how it tasted. I pulled out de
corncob stopper and tuk one taste. It was so good I jus' kep' on tastin'
'til I passed out, and didn't know when us got home or nuffin else 'til
I waked up in my own bed next day. Daddy give me a tannin' what I didn't
forgit for a long time, but dat was de wussest drunk I ever was. Lord,
but I did love to follow my Daddy.

"Folkses warn't sick much in dem days lak dey is now, but now us don't
eat strong victuals no more. Us raked out hot ashes den and cooked good
old ashcakes what was a heap better for us dan dis bread us buys from de
stores now. Marster fed us plenty ashcake, fresh meat, and ash roasted
'taters, and dere warn't nobody what could out wuk us.

"A death was somepin what didn't happen often on our plantation, but
when somebody did die folkses would go from miles and miles around to
set up and pray all night to comfort de fambly of de daid. Dey never
made up de coffins 'til atter somebody died. Den dey measured de corpse
and made de coffin to fit de body. Dem coffins was lined wid black
calico and painted wid lampblack on de outside. Sometimes dey kivvered
de outside wid black calico lak de linin'. Coffins for white folkses was
jus' lak what dey had made up for deir slaves, and dey was all buried in
de same graveyard on deir own plantations.

"When de war was over dey closed de little one-room school what our good
Marster had kept in his back yard for his slaves, but out young Miss
Ellen larnt my sister right on 'til she got whar she could teach school.
Daddy fixed up a room onto our house for her school and she soon had it
full of chillun. Dey made me study too, and I sho did hate to have to go
to school to my own aister for she evermore did take evvy chance to lay
dat stick on me, but I s'pects she had a right tough time wid me. When
time come 'round to celebrate school commencement, I was one proud
little Nigger 'cause I never had been so dressed up in my life before.
I had on a red waist, white pants, and a good pair of shoes; but de
grandest thing of all 'bout dat outfit was dat Daddy let me wear his
watch. Evvybody come for dat celebration. Dere was over 300 folks at dat
big dinner, and us had lots of barbecue and all sorts of good things
t'eat. Old Marster was dar, and when I stood up 'fore all dem folks and
said my little speech widout missin' a word, Marster sho did laugh and
clap his hands. He called me over to whar he was settin' and said: 'I
knowed you could larn if you wanted to.' _Best of all, he give me a
whole dollar._ [TR: 'for reciting a speech' written in margin.] I was
rich den, plumb rich. One of my sisters couldn't larn nothin'. De only
letters she could ever say was 'G-O-D.' No matter what you axed her to
spell she allus said 'G-O-D.' She was a good field hand though and a
good 'oman and she lived to be more dan 90 years old.

"Now, talkin' 'bout frolickin', us really used to dance. What I means,
is sho 'nough old-time break-downs. Sometimes us didn't have no music
'cept jus' beatin' time on tin pans and buckets but most times Old Elice
Hudson played his fiddle for us, and it had to be tuned again atter evvy
set us danced. He never knowed but one tune and he played dat over and
over. Sometimes dere was 10 or 15 couples on de floor at de same time
and us didn't think nothin' of dancin' all night long. Us had plenty of
old corn juice for refreshment, and atter Elice had two or three cups of
dat juice, he could git 'Turkey in de Straw' out of dat fiddle lak
nobody's business.

"One time a houseboy from another plantation wanted to come to one of
our Saddy night dances, so his marster told him to shine his boots for
Sunday and fix his hoss for de night and den he could git off for de
frolic. Abraham shined his marster's boots 'till he could see hisself in
'em, and dey looked so grand he was tempted to try 'em on. Dey was a
little tight but he thought he could wear 'em, and he wanted to show
hisself off in 'em at de dance. Dey warn't so easy to walk in and he was
'fraid he might git 'em scratched up walkin' through de fields, so he
snuck his Marster's hoss out and rode to de dance. When Abraham rid up
dar in dem shiny boots, he got all de gals' 'tention. None of 'em wanted
to dance wid de other Niggers. Dat Abraham was sho sruttin' 'til
somebody run in and told him his hoss had done broke its neck. He had
tied it to a limb and sho 'nough, some way, dat hoss had done got
tangled up and hung its own self. Abraham begged de other Nigger boys to
help him take de deid hoss home, but he had done tuk deir gals and he
didn't git no help. He had to walk 12 long miles home in dem tight
shoes. De sun had done riz up when he got dar and it warn't long 'fore
his Marster was callin': 'Abraham, bring, me my boots.' Dat Nigger would
holler out: 'Yas sah! I'se a-comin'. But dem boots wouldn't come off
'cause his foots had done swelled up in 'em. His marster kept on callin'
and when Abraham seed he couldn't put it off no longer, he jus' cut dem
boots off his foots and went in and told what he had done. His marster
was awful mad and said he was a good mind to take de hide off Abraham's
back. 'Go git my hoss quick, Nigger, 'fore I most kills you,' he yelled.
Den Abraham told him: 'Marster I knows you is gwine to kill me now, but
your hoss is done daid.' Den pore Abraham had to out and tell de whole
story and his marster got to laughin' so 'bout how he tuk all de gals
away from de other boys and how dem boots hurt him dat it looked lak he
never would stop. When he finally did stop laughin' and shakin' his
sides he said: 'Dat's all right Abraham. Don't never let nobody beat
your time wid de gals.' And dat's all he ever said to Abraham 'bout it.

"When my sister got married, us sho did have a grand time. Us cooked a
pig whole wid a shiny red apple in its mouth and set it right in de
middle of de long table what us had built out in de yard. Us had
evvything good to go wid dat pig, and atter dat supper, us danced all
night long. My sister never had seed dat man but one time 'fore she
married him.

"My Daddy and his cousin Jim swore wid one another dat if one died 'fore
de other dat de one what was left would look atter de daid one's fambly
and see dat none of de chillun was bound out to wuk for nobody. It
warn't long atter dis dat Daddy died. I was jus' fourteen, and was
wukin' for a brick mason larnin' dat trade. Daddy had done been sick a
while, and one night de fambly woke me up and said he was dyin'. I run
fast as I could for a doctor but Daddy was done daid when I got back. Us
buried him right side of Mammy in de old graveyard. It was most a year
atter dat 'fore us had de funeral sermon preached. Dat was de way
folkses done den. Now Mammy and Daddy was both gone, but old Marster
said us chillun could live dar long as us wanted to. I went on back to
wuk, 'cause I was crazy to be as good a mason as my Daddy was. In
Lexin'ton dere is a rock wall still standin' 'round a whole square what
Daddy built in slavery time. Long as he lived he blowed his bugle evvy
mornin' to wake up all de folkses on Marse Frank's plantation. He never
failed to blow dat bugle at break of day 'cep on Sundays, and evvybody
on dat place 'pended on him to wake 'em up.

"I was jus' a-wukin' away one day when Cousin Jim sent for me to go to
town wid him. Missy, dat man brung ne right here to Athens to de old
courthouse and bound me out to a white man. He done dat very thing atter
swearin' to my Daddy he wouldn't never let dat happen. I didn't want to
wuk dat way, so I run away and went back home to wuk. De sheriff come
and got me and said I had to go back whar I was bound out or go to jail.
Pretty soon I runned away again and went to Atlanta, and dey never
bothered me 'bout dat no more.

"De onliest time I ever got 'rested was once when I come to town to see
'bout gittin' somebody to pick cotton for me and jus' as I got to a
certain Nigger's house de police come in and caught 'em in a crap game.
Mr. McCune, de policeman, said I would have to go 'long wid de others to
jail, but he would help me atter us got der and he did. He 'ranged it so
I could hurry back home.

"'Bout de best times us had in de plantation days was de corn shuckin's,
log rollin's and syrup cookin's. Us allus finished up dem syrup cookin's
wid a candy pullin'.

"Atter he had all his corn gathered and put in big long piles, Marster
'vited de folkses from all 'round dem parts. Dat was de way it was done;
evvybody holped de others git de corn shucked. Nobody thought of hirin'
folkses and payin' out cash money for extra wuk lak dat. Dey 'lected a
gen'ral to lead off de singin' and atter he got 'em to keepin' time wid
de singin' de little brown jug was passed 'round. When it had gone de
rounds a time or two, it was a sight to see how fast dem Niggers could
keep time to dat singin'. Dey could do all sorts of double time den when
dey had swigged enough liquor. When de corn was all shucked dey feasted
and den drunk more liquor and danced as long as dey could stand up. De
logrollin's and candy pullin's ended de same way. Dey was sho grand good

"I farmed wid de white folkses for 32 years and never had no trouble wid
nobody. Us allus settled up fair and square and in crop time dey never
bothered to come 'round to see what Neal was doin', 'cause dey knowed
dis Nigger was wukin' all right. Dey was all mighty good to me. Atter I
got so old I couldn't run a farm no more I wuked in de white folkses'
gyardens and tended deir flowers. I had done been wukin' out Mrs. Steve
Upson's flowers and when she 'come to pay, she axed what my name was.
When I told her it was Neal Upson she wanted to know how I got de Upson
name. I told her Mr. Frank Upson had done give it to me when I was his
slave. She called to Mr. Steve and dey lak to have talked me to death,
for my Marse Frank and Mr. Steve's daddy was close kinfolkses.

"Atter dat I wuked deir flowers long as I was able to walk way off up to
deir place, but old Neal can't wuk no more. Mr. Steve and his folkses
comes to see me sometimes and I'se allus powerful glad to see 'em.

"I used to wuk some for Miss Mary Bacon. She is a mighty good 'oman and
she knowed my Daddy and our good Old Marster. Miss Mary would talk to me
'bout dem old days and she allus said: 'Neal, let's pray,' 'fore I left.
Miss Mary never did git married. She's one of dem solitary ladies.

"Now, Missy, how come you wants to know 'bout my weddin'? I done been
married two times, but it was de fust time dat was de sho 'nough 'citin'
one. I courted dat gal for a long, long time while I was too skeered to
ax her Daddy for her. I went to see her evvy Sunday jus' 'termined to ax
him for her 'fore I left, and I would stay late atter supper, but jus'
couldn't git up nerve enough to do it. One Sunday I promised myself I
would ax him if it kilt me, so I went over to his house early dat
mornin' and told Lida, dat was my sweetheart's name--I says to her: 'I
sho is gwine to ax him today.' Well, dinnertime come, suppertime come,
and I was gittin' shaky in my jints when her Daddy went to feed his hogs
and I went along wid him. Missy, dis is de way I finally did ax him for
his gal. He said he was goin' to have some fine meat come winter. I axed
him if it would be enough for all of his fambly, and he said: 'How come
you ax dat, boy?' Den I jus' got a tight hold on dat old hog pen and
said: 'Well, Sir, I jus' thought if you didn't have enough for all of
'em, I could take Lida.' I felt myself goin' down. He started laughin'
fit to kill. 'Boy,' he says, 'Is you tryin' to ax for Lida? If so, I
don't keer 'cause she's got to git married sometime.' I was so happy I
left him right den and run back to tell Lida dat he said it was all

"Us didn't have no big weddin'. Lida had on a new calico dress and I
wore new jeans pants. Marster heared us was gittin' married dat day and
he sont his new buggy wid a message for us to come right dar to him. I
told Lida us better go, so us got in dat buggy and driv off, and de rest
of de folkses followed in de wagon. Marster met us in front of old Salem
Church. He had de church open and Preacher John Gibson waitin' der to
marry us. Us warn't 'spectin' no church weddin', but Marster said dat
Neal had to git married right. He never did forgit his Niggers. Lida
she's done been daid a long time, and I'se married again, but dat warn't
lak de fust time."

By now, Neal was evidently tired out but as the interviewer prepared to
leave, Neal said: "Missy, I'se sho got somepin to tell my old 'oman when
she gits home. She don't lak to leave me here by myself. I wish dere was
somebody for me to talk to evvyday, for I'se had sich a good time today.
I don't s'pect it's gwine to be long 'fore old Neal goes to be wid dem I
done been tellin' you 'bout, so don't wait too long to come back to see
me again."

[HW: Georgia]

Newton Bridge Road
Athens, Georgia

Written by:
Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby
Area 6

Edited by:
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall

John N. Booth
Area Supervisor of
Federal Writers'
Project--Areas 6 & 7,
Augusta, Ga.

Dec. 1, 1938

John F. Van Hook was a short, stout man with a shining bald pate, a
fringe of kinky gray hair, kindly eyes, and a white mustache of the Lord
Chamberlain variety. His shabby work clothes were clean and carefully
mended, and he leaned on a cane for support.

John was looking for the "Farm Bureau Office," but he agreed to return
for an interview after he had transacted his business. When he
reappeared a short time later and settled down in a comfortable chair he
gave the story of his early life with apparent enjoyment.

In language remarkably free of dialect, John began by telling his full
name and added that he was well known in Georgia and the whole country.
"Until I retired," he remarked, "I taught school in North Carolina, and
in Hall, Jackson, and Rabun Counties, in Georgia. I am farming now about
five miles from Athens in the Sandy Creek district. I was born in 1862
in Macon County, North Carolina, on the George Seller's plantation,
which borders the Little Tennessee River.

"I don't know anything much, first hand, about the war period, as I was
quite a child when that ended, but I can tell you all about the days of
Reconstruction. What I know about the things that took place during the
war was told me by my mother and other old people.

"My father was Bas Van Hook and he married Mary Angel, my mother. Mother
was born on Marse Dillard Love's plantation, and when his daughter, Miss
Jenny, married Marse Thomas Angel's son, Marse Dillard gave Mother to
Miss Jenny and when Little Miss Jenny Angel was born, Mother was her
nurse. Marse Thomas and Miss Jenny Angel died, and Mother stayed right
there keeping house for Little Miss Jenny and looking after her. Mother
had more sense than all the rest of the slaves put together, and she
even did Little Miss Jenny's shopping.

"My father was the only darkey Old Man Isaac Van Hook owned, and he did
anything that came to hand: he was a good carpenter and mechanic and
helped the Van Hooks to build mills, and he made the shoes for that
settlement. Thomas Aaron, George, James, Claude, and Washington were my
five brothers, and my sisters were Zelia, Elizabeth, and Candace. Why,
Miss, the only thing I can remember right off hand that we children done
was fight and frolic like youngsters will do when they get together.
With time to put my mind on it, I would probably recollect our games and
songs, if we had any.

"Our quarters was on a large farm on Sugar Fork River. The houses were
what you would call log huts and they were scattered about
promiscuously, no regular lay-out, just built wherever they happened to
find a good spring convenient. There was never but one room to a hut,
and they wern't particular about how many darkies they put in a room.

"White folks had fine four-poster beds with a frame built around the top
of the bed, and over the frame hung pretty, ruffled white curtains and a
similar ruffled curtain was around the bottom of the bed; the curtains
made pretty ornaments. Slaves had beds of this general kind, but they
warn't quite as pretty and fine. Corded springs were the go then. The
beds used by most of the slaves in that day and time were called
'Georgia beds,' and these were made by boring two holes in the cabin
wall, and two in the floor, and side pieces were run from the holes in
the wall to the posts and fastened; then planks were nailed around the
sides and foot, box-fashion, to hold in the straw that we used for
mattresses; over this pretty white sheets and plenty of quilts was
spreaded. Yes, mam, there was always plenty of good warm cover in those
days. Of course, it was home-made, all of it.

"My grandfather was a blacksmith and farmhand owned by Old Man Dillard
Love. According to my earliest recollection my grandmother Van Hook was
dead and I have no memories about her. My great, great grandmother,
Sarah Angel, looked after slave children while their mothers were at
work. She was a free woman, but she had belonged to Marse Tommy Angel
and Miss Jenny Angel; they were brother and sister. The way Granny Sarah
happened to be free was; one of the women in the Angel family died and
left a little baby soon after one of Granny's babies was born, and so
she was loaned to that family as wet nurse for the little orphan baby.
They gave her her freedom and took her into their home, because they did
not want her sleeping in slave quarters while she was nursing the white
child. In that settlement, it was considered a disgrace for a white
child to feed at the breast of a slave woman, but it was all right if
the darkey was a free woman. After she got too old to do regular work,
Granny Sarah used to glean after the reapers in the field to get wheat
for her bread. She had been a favored slave and allowed to do pretty
much as she pleased, and after she was a free woman the white folks
continued to look after her every need, but she loved to do for herself
as long as she was able to be up and about.

"What did we have to eat then? Why, most everything; ash cakes was a
mighty go then. Cornbread dough was made into little pones and placed on
the hot rocks close to the fire to dry out a little, then hot ashes were
raked out to the front of the fireplace and piled over the ash cakes.
When thoroughly done they were taken out and the ashes washed off; they
were just like cake to us children then. We ate lots of home-made lye
hominy, beans, peas, and all kinds of greens, cooked with fat meat. The
biggest, and maybe the best thing in the way of vegetables that we had
then was the white-head cabbage; they grew large up there in Carolina
where I lived. There was just one big garden to feed all the folks on
that farm.

"Marse George had a good 'possum dog that he let his slaves use at
night. They would start off hunting about 10 o'clock. Darkies knew that
the best place to hunt for 'possums was in a persimmon tree. If they
couldn't shake him out, they would cut the tree down, but the most fun
was when we found the 'possum in a hollow log. Some of the hunters would
get at one end of the log, and the others would guard the other end, and
they would build a fire to smoke the 'possum out. Sometimes when they
had to pull him out, they would find the 'possum in such a tight place
that most of his hair would be rubbed off before they could get him out.
Darkies hunted rabbits, squirrels, coons, all kinds of birds, and
'specially they was fond of going after wild turkeys. Another great
sport was hunting deer in the nearby mountains. I managed to get a shot
at one once. Marse George was right good about letting his darkies hunt
and fish at night to get meat for themselves. Oh! Sure, there were lots
of fish and they caught plenty of 'em in the Little Tennessee and Sugar
Fork Rivers and in the numerous creeks that were close by. Red horse,
suckers, and salmon are the kinds of fish I remember best. They were
cooked in various ways in skillets, spiders, and ovens on the big open

"Now, about the clothes we wore in the days of the war, I couldn't
rightly say, but my Mother said we had good comfortable garments. In the
summer weather, boys and men wore plain cotton shirts and jeans pants.
The home-made linsey-woolsy shirts that we wore over our cotton shirts,
and the wool pants that we wore in winter, were good and warm; they had
brogan shoes in winter too. Folks wore the same clothes on Sundays as
through the week, but they had to be sure that they were nice and clean
on Sundays. Dresses for the women folks were made out of cotton checks,
and they had sunbonnets too.

"Marse George Sellars, him that married Miss Ca'line Angel, was my real
master. They had four children, Bud, Mount, Elizabeth, and, and er; I
just can't bring to recollect the name of their other girl. They lived
in a two-story frame house that was surrounded by an oak grove on the
road leading from Franklin, North Carolina, to Clayton, Georgia. Hard
Sellars was the carriage driver, and while I am sure Marse George must
have had an overseer, I don't remember ever hearing anybody say his

"Really, Miss, I couldn't say just how big that plantation was, but I am
sure there must have been at least four or five hundred acres in it. One
mighty peculiar thing about his slaves was that Marse George never had
more than 99 slaves at one time; every time he bought one to try to make
it an even hundred, a slave died. This happened so often, I was told,
that he stopped trying to keep a hundred or more, and held on to his 99
slaves, and long as he did that, there warn't any more deaths than
births among his slaves. His slaves had to be in the fields when the sun
rose, and there they had to work steady until the sun went down. Oh!
Yes, mam, Marse Tommy Angel was mighty mean to his slaves, but Miss
Jenny, his sister, was good as could be; that is the reason she gave my
mother to her sister, Miss Ca'line Sellars; because she thought Marse
Tommy was too hard on her.

"I heard some talk as to how after the slaves had worked hard in the
field all day and come to the house at night, they were whipped for
mighty small offenses. Marse George would have them tied hand and foot
over a barrel and would beat them with a cowhide, or cat-o'-nine tails
lash. They had a jail in Franklin as far back as I can recollect. Old
Big Andy Angel's white folks had him put in jail a heap of times,
because he was a rogue and stole everything he could get his hands on.
Nearly everybody was afraid of him; he was a great big double jointed
man, and was black as the ace of spades. No, mam, I never saw any slaves
sold, but my father's mother and his sister were sold on the block. The
white folks that bought 'em took them away. After the war was over my
father tried to locate 'em, but never once did he get on the right track
of 'em.

"Oh! Why, my white folks took a great deal of pains teaching their
slaves how to read and write. My father could read, but he never learned
to write, and it was from our white folks that I learned to read and
write. Slaves read the Bible more than anything else. There were no
churches for slaves on Marse George's plantation, so we all went to the
white folks' church, about two miles away; it was called Clarke's
Chapel. Sometimes we went to church at Cross Roads; that was about the
same distance across Sugar Fork River. My mother was baptized in that
Sugar Fork River by a white preacher, but that is the reason I joined
the Baptist church, because my mother was a Baptist, and I was so crazy
about her, and am 'til yet.

"There were no funeral parlors in those days. They just funeralized the
dead in their own homes, took them to the graveyard in a painted
home-made coffin that was lined with thin bleaching made in the loom on
the plantation, and buried them in a grave that didn't have any bricks
or cement about it. That brings to my memory those songs they sung at
funerals. One of them started off something like this, _I Don't Want You
to Grieve After Me_. My mother used to tell me that when she was
baptized they sung, _You Shall Wear a Lily-White Robe_. Whenever I get
to studying about her it seems to me I can hear my mother singing that
song again. She did love it so much.

"No, mam, there didn't none of the darkies on Marse George Sellar's
place run away to the North, but some on Marse Tommy Angel's place ran
to the West. They told me that when Little Charles Angel started out to
run away a bird flew in front of him and led him all the way to the
West. Understand me, I am not saying that is strictly so, but that is
what I heard old folks say, when I was young. When darkies wanted to get
news to their girls or wives on other plantations and didn't want Marse
George to know about it, they would wait for a dark night and would tie
rags on their feet to keep from making any noise that the paterollers
might hear, for if they were caught out without a pass, that was
something else. Paterollers would go out in squads at night and whip any
darkies they caught out that could not show passes. Adam Angel was a
great big man, weighing about 200 pounds, and he slipped out one night
without a pass. When the paterollers found him, he was at his girl's
place where they were out in the front yard stewing lard for the white
folks. They knew he didn't belong on that plantation, so they asked him
to show his pass. Adam didn't have one with him, and he told them so.
They made a dive for him, and then, quick as a flash, he turned over
that pot of boiling lard, and while they were getting the hot grease off
of them he got away and came back to his cabin. If they had caught Adam,
he would have needed some of that spilt grease on him after the beating
they would have give him. Darkies used to stretch ropes and grapevines
across the road where they knew paterollers would be riding; then they
would run down the road in front of them, and when they got to the rope
or vine they would jump over it and watch the horses stumble and throw
the paterollers to the ground. That was a favorite sport of slaves.

"After the darkies got in from the field at night, ate their supper, and
finished up the chores for the day, on nights when the moon shone bright
the men would work in their own cotton patches that Marse George allowed
them; the women used their own time to wash, iron, patch, and get ready
for the next day, and if they had time they helped the men in their
cotton patches. They worked straight on through Saturdays, same as any
other day, but the young folks would get together on Saturday nights and
have little parties.

"How did they spend Sundays? Why, they went to church on Sunday and
visited around, holding prayermeetings at one another's cabins. Now,
Christmas morning! Yes, mam, that was a powerful time with the darkies,
if they didn't have nothing but a little sweet cake, which was nothing
more than gingerbread. However, Marse George did have plenty of good
things to eat at that time, such as fresh pork and wild turkeys, and we
were allowed to have a biscuit on that day. How we did frolic and cut up
at Christmas! Marse George didn't make much special to do on New Year's
Day as far as holiday was concerned; work was the primary object,
especially in connection with slaves.

"Oh-oo-h! Everybody had cornshuckings. The man designated to act as the
general would stick a peacock tail feather in his hat and call all the
men together and give his orders. He would stand in the center of the
corn pile, start the singing, and keep things lively for them. Now and
then he would pass around the jug. They sang a great deal during
cornshuckings, but I have forgotten the words to those songs. Great
excitement was expressed whenever a man found a red ear of corn, for
that counted 20 points, a speckled ear was 10 points and a blue ear 5
points, toward a special extra big swig of liquor whenever a person had
as many as 100 points. After the work was finished they had a big feast
spread on long tables in the yard, and dram flowed plentiful, then they
played ball, tussled, ran races, and did anything they knew how to amuse

"Now, Ladies," John said, "please excuse me. I left my wife at home real
sick, and I just must hurry to the drug store and get some flaxseed so I
can make a poultice for her." As he made a hasty departure, he agreed to
complete the story later at his home, and gave careful directions for
finding the place.

A month later, two visitors called on John at his small, unpainted house
in the center of a hillside cotton patch.

A tall, thin Negress appeared in the doorway. "Yes, mam, John Van Hook
lives here. He's down in the field with his hoe, digging 'taters." She
leaned from the porch and called, "Daddy, Daddy! Somebody wants to see
you." Asked if John was her father, she answered "No, mam, he is my
husband. I started calling him Daddy when our child was little, so I've
been calling him that ever since. My name is Laney."

The walls of the room into which John invited his callers were crudely
plestered with newspapers and the small space was crowded with furniture
of various kinds and periods. The ladder-back chairs he designated for
his guests were beautiful. "They are plantation-made," he explained,
"and we've had 'em a mighty long time." On a reading table a pencil and
tablet with a half-written page lay beside a large glass lamp.
Newspapers and books covered several other tables. A freshly whitewashed
hearth and mantel were crowned by an old-fashioned clock, and at the end
of the room a short flight of steps led to the dining room, built on a
higher floor level.

"Now, let's see! Where was I?," John began. "Oh, yes, we were talking
about cornshuckings, when I had to leave your office. Well, I haven't
had much time to study about those cornshucking songs to get all the
words down right, but the name of one was _General Religh Hoe_, and
there was another one that was called, _Have a Jolly Crowd, and a Little
Jolly Johnny_.

"Now you needn't to expect me to know much about cotton pickings, for
you know I have already told you I was raised in North Carolina, and we
were too far up in the mountains for cotton growing, but I have lived in
a cotton growing country for forty-odd years.

"As to parties and frolics, I guess I could have kept those things in
mind, but when I realized that being on the go every night I could get
off, week in and week out, was turning my mind and heart away from
useful living, I tried to put those things out of my life and to train
myself to be content with right living and the more serious things of
life, and that's why I can't remember more of the things about our
frolics that took place as I was growing up. About all I remember about
the dances was when we danced the cotillion at regular old country
break-downs. Folks valued their dances very highly then, and to be able
to perform them well was a great accomplishment. _Turkey in the Straw_
is about the oldest dance tune I can remember. Next to that is _Taint
Gonna Rain No More_, but the tune as well as words to that were far
different from the modern song by that name. _Rabbit Hair_ was another
favorite song, and there were dozens of others that I just never tried
to remember until you asked me about them.

"My father lived in Caswell County and he used to tell us how hard it
was for him to get up in the morning after being out most of the night
frolicking. He said their overseer couldn't talk plain, and would call
them long before crack of dawn, and it sounded like he was saying, 'Ike
and a bike, Ike and a bike.' What he meant was, 'Out and about! Out and

"Marriage in those days was looked upon as something very solemn, and it
was mighty seldom that anybody ever heard of a married couple trying to
get separated. Now it's different. When a preacher married a couple, you
didn't see any hard liquor around, but just a little light wine to liven
up the wedding feast. If they were married by a justice of the peace,
look out, there was plenty of wine and," here his voice was almost
awe-stricken, "even whiskey too."

Laney interrupted at this stage of the story with, "My mother said they
used to make up a new broom and when the couple jumped over it, they was
married. Then they gave the broom to the couple to use keeping house."
John was evidently embarrassed. "Laney," he said, "that was never
confirmed. It was just hearsay, as far as you know, and I wouldn't tell
things like that.

"The first colored man I ever heard preach was old man Johnny McDowell.
He married Angeline Pennon and William Scruggs, uncle to Ollie Scruggs,
who lives in Athens now. After the wedding they were all dancing around
the yard having a big time and enjoying the wine and feast, and old man
McDowell, sitting there watching them, looked real thoughtful and sad;
suddenly he said: 'They don't behave like they knew what's been done
here today. Two people have been joined together for life. No matter
what comes, or what happens, these two people must stand by each other,
through everything, as long as they both shall live.' Never before had I
had such thoughts at a wedding. They had always just been times for big
eats, dancing, frolicking, and lots of jokes, and some of them pretty
rough jokes, perhaps. What he said got me to thinking, and I have never
been careless minded at a wedding since that day. Brother McDowell
preached at Clarke's Chapel, about five miles south of Franklin, North
Ca'lina, on the road leading from England to Georgia; that road ran
right through the Van Hook place."

Again Laney interrupted her husband. "My mother said they even had
infare dinners the next day after the wedding. The infare dinners were
just for the families of the bride and groom, and the bride had a
special dress for that occasion that she called her infare dress. The
friends of both parties were there at the big feast on the wedding day,
but not at the infare dinner."

"And there was no such a thing as child marriages heard of in those
days," John was speaking again. "At least none of the brides were under
15 or 16 years old. Now you can read about child brides not more than 10
years old, 'most ever' time you pick up a paper.

"I don't remember much, about what I played until I got to be about 10
years old. I was a terrible little fellow to imitate things. Old man
Tommy Angel built mills, and I built myself a little toy mill down on
the branch that led to Sugar Fork River. There was plenty of nice
soapstone there that was so soft you could cut it with a pocket knife
and could dress it off with a plane for a nice smooth finish. I shaped
two pieces of soapstone to look like round millstones and set me up a
little mill that worked just fine.

"We run pretty white sand through it and called that our meal and flour.
My white folks would come down to the branch and watch me run the little
toy mill. I used to make toy rifles and pistols and all sorts of nice
playthings out of that soapstone. I wish I had a piece of that good old
soapstone from around Franklin, so I could carve some toys like I used
to play with for my boy."

"We caught real salmon in the mountain streams," John remarked. "They
weighed from 3 to 25 pounds, and kind of favored a jack fish, only jack
fishes have duck bills, and these salmon had saw teeth. They were
powerful jumpers and when you hooked one you had a fight on your hands
to get it to the bank no matter whether it weighed 3 or 25 pounds. The
gamest of all the fish in those mountain streams were red horses. When I
was about 9 or 10 years old I took my brother's fish gig and went off
down to the river. I saw what looked like the shadow of a stick in the
clear water and when I thrust the gig at it I found mighty quick I had
gigged a red horse. I did my best to land it but it was too strong for
me and pulled loose from my gig and darted out into deep water. I ran
fast as I could up the river bank to the horseshoe bend where a flat
bottom boat belonging to our family was tied. I got in that boat and
chased that fish 'til I got him. It weighed 6 pounds and was 2 feet and
6 inches long. There was plenty of excitement created around that
plantation when the news got around that a boy, as little as I was then,
had landed such a big old fighting fish."

"Suckers were plentiful and easy to catch but they did not give you the
battle that a salmon or a red horse could put up and that was what it
took to make fishing fun. We had canoes, but we used a plain old flat
boat, a good deal like a small ferry boat, most of the time. There was
about the same difference in a canoe and a flat boat that there is in a
nice passenger automobile and a truck."

When asked if he remembered any of the tunes and words of the songs he
sang as a child, John was silent for a few moments and then began to

  "A frog went courtin'
   And he did ride
     Uh hunh
   With a sword and pistol
   By his side
     Uh hunh.

  "Old uncle Rat laughed,
   Shook his old fat side;
   He thought his niece
   Was going to be the bride.
     Uh hunh, uh hunh

  "Where shall the wedding be?
     Uh hunh
   Where shall the wedding be?
     Uh hunh

  "Way down yonder
   In a hollow gum tree.
     Uh hunh, un hunh, uh hunh.

  "Who shall the waiters be?
     Uh hunh
   Granddaddy Louse and a
   Black-eyed flea.
     Uh hunh, uh hunh, uh hunh."

Laney reminded him of a song he used to sing when their child was a
baby. "It is hard for me to formulate its words in my mind. I just
cannot seem to get them," he answered, "but I thought of this one the
other night and promised myself I would sing it for you sometime. It's
_Old Granny Mistletoe_.

   "Old Granny Mistletoe,
    Lyin' in the bed,
    Out the window
     She poked her head.

  "She says, 'Old Man,
     The gray goose's gone,
   And I think I heard her holler,
     King-cant-you-O, King-cant-you-O!'

  "The old fox stepped around,
     A mighty fast step.
   He hung the old gray goose
     Up by the neck.

  "Her wings went flip-flop
     Over her back,
   And her legs hung down.
     Ding-downy-O, ding-downy-O.

  "The old fox marched
     On to his den.
   Out come his young ones,
     Some nine or ten.

  "Now we will have
     Some-supper-O, some-summer-O.
   Now we will have
     Some-supper-O, some-supper-O."

"The only riddle I remember is the one about: 'What goes around the
house, and just makes one track?' I believe they said it was a
wheelbarrow. Mighty few people in that settlement believed in such
things as charms. They were too intelligent for that sort of thing.

"Old man Dillard Love didn't know half of his slaves. They were called
'Love's free niggers.' Some of the white folks in that settlement would
get after their niggers and say 'who do you think you are, you must
think you are one of Dillard Love's free niggers the way you act.' Then
the slave was led to the whipping post and brushed down, and his marster
would tell him, 'now you see who is boss.'

"Marse Dillard often met a darkey in the road, he would stop and inquire
of him, 'Who's nigger is you?' The darkey would say 'Boss I'se your
nigger.' If Marse Dillard was feeling good he would give the darkey a
present. Heaps of times he gave them as much as five dollars, 'cording
to how good he was feeling. He treated his darkies mighty good.

"My grandfather belonged to Marse Dillard Love, and when the war was
declared he was too old to go. Marse George Sellars went and was
wounded. You know all about the blanket rolls they carried over their
shoulders. Well, that bullet that hit him had to go all the way through
that roll that had I don't know how many folds, and its force was just
about spent by the time it got to his shoulder; that was why it didn't
kill him, otherwise it would have gone through him. The bullet was
extracted, but it left him with a lame shoulder.

"Our Mr. Tommy Angel went to the war, and he got so much experience
shooting at the Yankees that he could shoot at a target all day long,
and then cover all the bullet holes he made with the palm of one hand.
Mr. Tommy was at home when the Yankees come though.

"Folks around our settlement put their darkies on all their good mules
and horses, and loaded them down with food and valuables, then sent them
to the nearby mountains and caves to hide until the soldiers were gone.
Mr. Angel himself told me later that lots of the folks who came around
pilfering after the war, warn't northerners at all, but men from just
anywhere, who had fought in the war and came back home to find all they
had was gone, and they had to live some way.

"One day my father and another servant were laughing fit to kill at a
greedy little calf that had caught his head in the feed basket. They
thought it was just too funny. About that time a Yankee, in his blue
uniform coming down the road, took the notion the men were laughing at
him. 'What are you laughing at?' he said, and at that they lit out to
run. The man called my father and made him come back, 'cause he was the
one laughing so hard. Father thought the Yankee vas going to shoot him
before he could make him understand they were just laughing at the calf.

"When the war was over, Mr. Love called his slaves together and told
them they had been set free. He explained everything to them very
carefully, and told them he would make farming arrangements for all that
wanted to stay on there with him. Lots of the darkies left after they
heard about folks getting rich working on the railroads in Tennessee and
about the high wages that were being paid on those big plantations in
Mississippi. Some of those labor agents were powerful smart about
stretching the truth, but those folks that believed them and left home
found out that it's pretty much the same the world over, as far as folks
and human nature is concerned. Those that had even average common sense
got along comfortable and all right in Tennessee and Mississippi, and
those that suffered out there were the sort that are so stupid they
would starve in the middle of a good apple pie. My brother that went
with the others to Tennessee never came back, and we never saw him

"My father did not want me to leave our home at Franklin, North
Carolina, and come to Georgia, for he had been told Georgia people were
awful mean. There was a tale told us about the Mr. Oglethorpe, who
settled Georgia, bringing over folks from the jails of England to settle
in Georgia and it was said they became the ruling class of the State.
Anyway, I came on just the same, and pretty soon I married a Georgia
girl, and have found the people who live here are all right."

Laney eagerly took advantage of the pause that followed to tell of her
mother's owner. "Mother said that he was an old, old man and would set
in his big armchair 'most all day. When he heard good news from the
soldiers he would drum his fingers on his chair and pat his feet, whilst
he tried to sing, 'Te Deum, Te Deum. Good news today! We won today!'
Whenever he heard the southern armies were losing, he would lie around
moaning and crying out loud. Nobody could comfort him then."

John was delighted to talk about religion. "Yes, mam, after the war,
darkies used to meet at each others' houses for religious services until
they got churches of their own. Those meetings were little more than
just prayermeetings. Our white folks were powerful careful to teach
their slaves how to do the right thing, and long after we were free Mr.
Tommy would give long talks at our meetings. We loved to listen to him
and have him interested in us, for we had never been treated mean like
heaps of the slaves in that neighborhood had.

"One white man in our county needed the help of the Lord. His name was
Boney Ridley and he just couldn't keep away from liquor. He was an uncle
of that famous preacher and poet, Mr. Caleb Ridley. One day when Mr.
Boney had been drinking hard and kind of out of his head, he was
stretched out on the ground in a sort of stupor. He opened his eyes and
looked at the buzzards circling low over him and said, sort of sick and
fretful-like, 'Git on off, buzzards; I ain't dead yet.'"

"The Reverend Doctor George Truett was a fine boy and he has grown into
a splendid man. He is one of God's chosen ones. I well remember the
first time I heard him speak. I was a janitor at the State Normal School
when he was a pupil there in 1887. I still think he is about the
greatest orator I ever listened to. In those days, back in 1887, I
always made it convenient to be doing something around the school room
when time came for him to recite or to be on a debate. After he left
that school he went on to the Seminary at Louisville and he has become
known throughout this country as a great Christian.

"I started teaching in old field schools with no education but just what
our white folks had taught me. They taught me to read and write, and I
must say I really was a mighty apt person, and took advantage of every
opportunity that came my way to learn. You know, teaching is a mighty
good way to learn. After I had been teaching for some time I went back
to school, but most of my knowledge was gotten by studying what books
and papers I could get hold of and by watching folks who were really
educated; by listening carefully to them, I found I could often learn a
good deal that way."

Laney could be quiet no longer. "My husband," she said, "is a self-made
man. His educated brother, Claude, that graduated from Maryville School
in Tennessee, says that he cannot cope with my husband."

John smiled indulgently and continued: "We were in sad and woeful want
after the war. Once I asked my father why he let us go so hungry and
ragged, and he answered: 'How can we help it? Why, even the white folks
don't have enough to eat and wear now.'

"Eleven years ago I rented a little farm from. Mr. Jasper Thompson, in
Jackson County. After the boll-weevil got bad I came to the other side
of the river yonder, where I stayed 7 years. By this time most of the
children by my first two wives had grown up and gone off up north. My
first wife's children were Robert, Ella, the twins, Julius and Julia
Anne, (who died soon after they were grown-up), and Charlie, and Dan.
Robert is in Philadelphia, Ella in Cincinnati, and Dan is dead.

"Fred, George, and Johnny, my second wife's children are all living, but
are scattered in far-off places.

"Everybody was powerful sorry to hear about Lincoln's assassination. At
that time Jefferson Davis was considered the greatest man that ever
lived, but the effect of Lincoln's life and deeds will live on forever.
His life grows greater in reputation with the years and his wisdom more

"As long as we were their property our masters were mighty careful to
have us doctored up right when there was the least sign of sickness.
There was always some old woman too old for field work that nursed the
sick on the big plantations, but the marsters sent for regular doctors
mighty quick if the patient seemed much sick.

"After the war we were slower to call in doctors because we had no
money, and that's how I lost my good right eye. If I had gone to the
doctor when it first got hurt it would have been all right now. When we
didn't have money we used to pay the doctor with corn, fodder, wheat,
chickens, pork, or anything we had that he wanted.

"We learned to use lots of herbs and other home-made remedies during the
war when medicine was scarce at the stores, and some old folks still use
these simple teas and poultices. Comfrey was a herb used much for
poultices on risings, boils, and the like, and tea made from it is said
to be soothing to the nerves. Garlic tea was much used for worms, but it
was also counted a good pneumonia remedy, and garlic poultices helped
folks to breathe when they had grippe or pneumonia. Boneset tea was for
colds. Goldenrod was used leaf, stem, blossom, and all in various ways,
chiefly for fever and coughs. Black snake root was a good cure for
childbed fever, and it saved the life of my second wife after her last
child was born. Slippery ellum was used for poultices to heal burns,
bruises, and any abrasions, and we gargled slippery ellum tea to heal
sore throats, but red oak bark tea was our best sore throat remedy. For
indigestion and shortness of the breath we chewed calamus root or drank
tea made from it. In fact, we still think it is mighty useful for those
purposes. It was a long time after the war before there were any darkies
with enough medical education to practice as doctors. Dr. Doyle in
Gainesville was the first colored physician that I ever saw.

"The world seems to be gradually drifting the wrong way, and it won't
get any better 'til all people put their belief--and I mean by
that--simple faith, in the Bible. What they like of it they are in the
habit of quoting, but they distort it and try to make it appear to mean
whatever will suit their wicked convenience. They have got to take the
whole Bible and live by it, and they must remember they cannot leave out
those wise old laws of the Old Testament that God gave for men
everywhere to live by."

Laney had quietly left the room, but as the visitors were taking their
departure she returned with a small package. "This," she explained, "is
some calamus root that I raised and dried myself, and I hope it comes in
handy whenever you ladies need something for the indigestion."

"Next time you come, I hope to have more songs remembered and written
down for you," promised John.


653 Dearing Street
Athens, Georgia

Written By:
Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby
Athens, Georgia

Edited By:
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall
Athens, Georgia

John N. Booth
WPA Residency No. 6 & 7

August 23, 1938

Perched on an embankment high above the street level is the four-room
frame cottage where Addie Vinson lives with her daughter. The visitor
scrambled up the steep incline to the vine covered porch, and a rap on
the front door brought prompt response. "Who dat?" asked a very black
woman, who suddenly appeared in the hall. "What you want?... Yassum,
dis here's Addie, but dey calls me Mammy, 'cause I'se so old. I s'pects
I'se most nigh a hunnert and eight years old."

The old Negress is very short and stout. Her dark blue calico dress was
striped with lines of tiny polka dots, and had been lengthened by a band
of light blue outing flannel with a darker blue stripe, let in just
below the waist line. Her high-topped black shoes were worn over grey
cotton hose, and the stocking cap that partially concealed her white
hair was crowned by a panama hat that flopped down on all sides except
where the brim was fastened up across the front with two conspicuous
"safety-first" pins. Addie's eyesight is poor, and she claims it was
"plum ruint by de St. Vitus's dance," from which she has suffered for
many years. She readily agreed to tell of her early life, and her eyes
brightened as she began: "Lawsy, Missy! Is dat what you come 'ere for?
Oh, dem good old days! I was thinkin' 'bout Old Miss jus' t'other day.

"I was borned down in Oconee County on Marse Ike Vinson's place. Old
Miss was Marse Ike's mother. My Mammy and Pappy was Peter and 'Nerva
Vinson and dey was both field hands. Marse Ike buyed my Pappy from Marse
Sam Brightwell. Me and Bill, Willis, Maze, Harrison, Easter, and Sue was
all de chillun my Mammy and Pappy had. Dere warn't but four of us big
enough to wuk when Marse Ike married Miss Ann Hayes and dey tuk Mammy
wid 'em to dey new home in town. I stayed dar on de plantation and done
lots of little jobs lak waitin' on table; totin' Old Miss' breakfast to
her in her room evvy mornin', and I holped 'tend to de grainery. Dey
says now dat folkses is livin' in dat old grainery house.

"Dat was a be-yootiful place, wid woods, cricks, and fields spread out
most as fur as you could see. De slave quarters would'a reached from
here to Milledge Avenue. Us lived in a one-room log cabin what had a
chimbly made out of sticks and mud. Dem homemade beds what us slep' on
had big old high posties wid a great big knob on de top of each post.
Our matt'esses was coarse home-wove cloth stuffed wid field straw. You
know I laked dem matt'esses 'cause when de chinches got too bad you
could shake out dat straw and burn it, den scald de tick and fill it wid
fresh straw, and rest in peace again. You can't never git de chinches
out of dese cotton matt'esses us has to sleep on now days. Pillows? What
you talkin' 'bout? You know Niggers never had no pillows dem days,
leaseways us never had none. Us did have plenty of kivver dough. Folkses
was all time a-piecin' quilts and having quiltin's. All dat sort of wuk
was done at night.

"Pappy's Ma and Pa was Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Jacob. Day was field
hands, and dey b'longed to Marse Obe Jackson. Grandma Lucy and Grandpa
Toney Murrah was owned by Marse Billy Murrah. Marse Billy was a preacher
what sho could come down wid de gospel at church. Grandma Lucy was his
cook. Miss Sadie LeSeur got Grandma Lucy and tuk her to Columbus,
Georgy, and us never seed our grandma no more. Miss Sadie had been one
of de Vinson gals. She tuk our Aunt Haley 'long too to wait on her when
she started out for Europe, and 'fore dey got crost de water, Aunt
Haley, she died on de boat. Miss Sarah, she had a time keepin' dem
boatsmens from th'owing Aunt Haley to de sharks. She is buried in de old
country somewhar.

"Now Missy, how was Nigger chillun gwine to git holt of money in slavery
time? Old Marse, he give us plenty of somepin t'eat and all de clothes
us needed, but he sho kep' his money for his own self.

"Now 'bout dat somepin t'eat. Sho dat! Us had plenty of dem good old
collards, turnips, and dem sort of oatments, and dar was allus a good
chunk of meat to bile wid 'em. Marse Ike, he kep' plenty of evvy sort of
meat folkses knowed about dem days. He had his own beef cattle, lots of
sheep, and he killed more'n a hunnert hogs evvy year. Dey tells me dat
old bench dey used to lay de meat out on to cut it up is standin' dar

"'Possums? Lawd, dey was plentiful, and dat ain't all dere was on dat
plantation. One time a slave man was 'possum huntin' and, as he was
runnin' 'round in de bresh, he looked up and dar was a b'ar standin'
right up on his hind laigs grinnin' and ready to eat dat Nigger up. Oh,
good gracious, how dat Nigger did run! Dey fetched in 'possums in piles,
and dere was lots of rabbits, fixes, and coons. Dem coon, fox and
'possum hounds sho knowed deir business. Lawsy, I kin jus' smell one of
dem good old 'possums roastin' right now, atter all dese years. You
parbiled de 'possum fust, and den roasted him in a heavy iron skillet
what had a big old thick lid. Jus' 'fore de 'possum got done, you peeled
ash-roasted 'taters and put 'em all 'round da 'possum so as day would
soak up some of dat good old gravy, and would git good and brown. Is you
ever et any good old ashcake? You wropped de raw hoecake in cabbage or
collard leafs and roasted 'em in de ashes. When dey got done, you had
somepin fit for a king to eat.

"De kitchen was sot off a piece from de big house, and our white folkses
wouldn't eat deir supper 'fore time to light de lamps to save your life;
den I had to stan' 'hind Old Miss' cheer and fan her wid a
turkey-feather fan to keep de flies off. No matter how rich folkses was
dem days dere warn't no screens in de houses.

"I never will forgit pore old Aunt Mary; she was our cook, and she had
to be tapped evvy now and den 'cause she had de drapsy so bad. Aunt
Mary's old man was Uncle Harris, and I 'members how he used to go
fishin' at night. De udder slaves went fishin' too. Many's de time I'se
seed my Mammy come back from Barber's Crick wid a string of fish
draggin' from her shoulders down to de ground. Me, I laked milk more'n
anything else. You jus' oughta seed dat place at milkin' time. Dere was
a heap of cows a fightin', chillun hollerin', and sich a bedlam as you
can't think up. Dat old plantation was a grand place for chillun, in
summertime 'specially, 'cause dere was so many branches and cricks close
by what us chillun could hop in and cool off.

"Chillun didn't wear nothin' but cotton slips in summer, but de winter
clothes was good and warm. Under our heavy winter dresses us wore
quilted underskirts dat was sho nice and warm. Sunday clothes? Yes
Mar'm, us allus had nice clothes for Sunday. Dey made up our summertime
Sunday dresses out of a thin cloth called Sunday-parade. Dey was made
spenser fashion, wid ruffles 'round de neck and waist. Our ruffled
petticoats was all starched and ironed stiff and slick, and us jus'
knowed our long pantalettes, wid deir scalloped ruffles, was mighty
fine. Some of de 'omans would wuk fancy eyelets what dey punched in de
scallops wid locust thorns. Dem pantalettes was buttoned on to our
drawers. Our Sunday dresses for winter was made out of linsey-woolsey
cloth. White ladies wore hoopskirts wid deir dresses, and dey looked lak
fairy queens. Boys wore plain shirts in summer, but in winter dey had
warmer shirts and quilted pants. Dey would put two pair of britches
togedder and quilt 'em up so you couldn't tell what sort of cloth dey
was made out of. Dem pants was called suggins.

"All de Niggers went barfoots in summer, but in winter us all wore
brogans. Old Miss had a shoe shop in de cellar under de big house, and
when dem two white 'omans dat she hired to make our shoes come, us
knowed wintertime was nigh. Dem 'omans would stay 'til day had made up
shoes enough to last us all winter long, den dey would go on to de next
place what dey s'pected to make shoes.

"Marse Ike Vinson was sho good to his Niggers. He was de hanger, 'cept
he never hung nobody. Him and Miss Ann had six chillun. Dey was Miss
Lucy, Miss Myrt, Miss Sarah, Miss Nettie, Marse Charlie, and Marse Tom.
Marse Ike's ma, Old Miss, wouldn't move to town wid him and Miss Ann;
she stayed on in de big house on de plantation. To tell de truf I done
forgot Old Miss' name. De overseer and his wife was Mr. Edmond and Miss
Betsey, and dey moved up to de big house wid old Miss atter Marse Ike
and Miss Ann moved to town. Stiles Vinson was de carriage driver, and he
fotched Marse Ike out to de plantation evvy day. Lord! Gracious alive!
It would take a week to walk all over dat plantation. Dere was more'n a
thousand acres in it and, countin' all de chillun, dere was mighty nigh
a hunnert slaves.

"Long 'fore day, dat overseer blowed a bugle to wake up de Niggers. You
could hear it far as High Shoals, and us lived dis side of Watkinsville.
Heaps of folkses all over dat part of de country got up by dat old
bugle. I will never forgit one time when de overseer said to us chillun,
'You fellows go to do field and fetch some corn tops.' Mandy said: 'He
ain't talkin' to us 'cause us ain't fellows and I ain't gwine.' Bless
your sweet life, I runned and got dem corn tops, 'cause I didn't want no
beatin'. Dem udder 'chillun got deir footses most cut off wid dem
switches whan dat overseer got to wuk to sho 'em dey had to obey him.
Dat overseer sho did wuk de Niggers hard; he driv' 'em all de time. Dey
had to go to de field long 'fore sunup, and it was way atter sundown
'fore dey could stop dat field wuk. Den dey had to hustle to finish deir
night wuk in time for supper, or go to bed widout it.

[HW sidenote: Beating]

"You know dey whupped Niggers den. Atter dey had done wukked hard in de
fields all day long, de beatin' started up, and he allus had somepin in
mind to beat 'em about. When dey beat my Aunt Sallie she would fight
back, and once when Uncle Randall said somepin he hadn't oughta, dat
overseer beat him so bad he couldn't wuk for a week. He had to be grez
all over evvy day wid hoalin' ointment for a long time 'fore dem gashes
got well.

"Rita and Retta was de Nigger 'omans what put pizen in some collards
what dey give Aunt Vira and her baby to eat. She had been laughin' at a
man 'cause his coattail was a-flappin' so funny whilst he was dancin',
and dem two Jezebels thought she was makin' fun of dem. At de graveyard,
'fore dey buried her, dey cut her open and found her heart was all
decayed. De overseer driv dem 'omans clear off de plantation, and
Marster, he was mighty mad. He said he had done lost 'bout $2,000. If he
had kotched dem 'omans he woulda hung 'em, cause he was de hanger. In
'bout two weeks dat overseer left dar, and Old Marse had to git him
anudder man to take his place.

"Sho! Dere was a jail for slaves and a hangin' place right in front of
de jail, but none of Old Marster's Niggers warn't never put in no
jailhouse. Oh God! Yes, dey sold slaves. My own granddaddy was made to
git up on dat block, and dey sold him. One time I seed Old Marse buy
four boys." At this point the narrative ceased when Addie suddenly
remembered that she must stop to get supper for the daughter, who would
soon be returning from work.

The visitor called early in the morning of the following day, and found
Addie bent over her washtubs in the back yard. "Have dat cheer," was the
greeting as the old Negress lifted a dripping hand to point out a chair
under the spreading branches of a huge oak tree, "You knows you don't
want to hear no more 'bout dat old stuff," she said, "and anyhow, is you
gittin' paid for doin' dis?" When the visitor admitted that these
interviews were part of her salaried work, Addie quickly asked: "What is
you gwine to give me?"

When the last piece of wash had been hung on the line and Addie had
turned a large lard can upside down for a stool, she settled down and
began to talk freely.

"No Ma'm, dey didn't low Niggers to larn how to read and write. I had to
go wid de white chillun to deir school on Hog Mountain road evvy day to
wait on 'em. I toted water for 'em kep' de fire goin', and done all
sorts of little jobs lak dat. Miss Martha, de overseer's daughter, tried
to larn me to read and write, but I wouldn't take it in.

"No Ma'm dere warn't no churches for Niggers in slavery time, so slaves
had to go to deir white folkses churches. Us went to church at Betty
Berry (Bethabara) and Mars Hill. When time come for de sermon to de
Niggers, sometimes de white folkses would leave and den again dey would
stay, but dat overseer, he was dar all de time. Old man Isaac Vandiver,
a Nigger preacher what couldn't read a word in de Bible, would git up in
dat pulpit and talk from his heart. You know dere's heaps of folkses
what's got dat sort of 'ligion--it's deep in deir hearts. De Reverend
Freeman was de white folkses' preacher. I laked him best, for what he
said allus sounded good to me.

"At funerals us used to sing _Hark From De Tomb A Doleful Sound_. I
never went to no funerals, but Old Marster's and Aunt Nira's, 'fore de
end of de war.

"When Old Marster went off to de war, he had all his slaves go to de
musterin' ground to see him leave. He was captain of his company from
Oconee County, and 'fore he left he had de mens in dat company bury deir
silver and gold, deir watches, rings, and jus' anything dey wanted to
keep, on Hog Mountain. Ha lef' a guard to watch de hidin' place so as
dey would have somepin when dey come back home, den dey marched back to
de musterin' ground dat was twixt de Hopkins' plantation and Old
Marster's place. Uncle Solomon went along to de war to tote Marster's
gun, cook for him, and sich lak. It warn't long 'fore old Marse was kilt
in dat war, and Uncle Solomon fetches him back in a coffin. All de
slaves dat went to de buryin' jus' trembled when guns was fired over Old
Marster's grave. Dat was done to show dat Old Marster had been a
powerful high-up man in de army.

"Good Gracious! Dere didn't nary a Nigger go off from our place to de
North, 'cause us was skeered of dem Yankees. Dere was a white
slave-trader named McRaleigh what used to come to Old Marster's
plantation to buy up Niggers to take 'em to de Mississippi bottoms. When
us seed him comin' us lit out for de woods. He got Aunt Rachel; you
could hear her hollerin' a mile down de road.

"Oh! Good Lord! Dem patterollers was awful. Folkses what dey cotched
widout no paper, dey jus' plum wore out. Old man John was de fiddler on
our place, and when de patterollers cotched him dey beat him up de wust
of all, 'cause him and his fiddle was all de time drawin' Niggers out to
do dances.

"If Old Marster wanted to send a massage he sont Uncle Randall on a mule
named Jim. Sometimes dat old mule tuk a notion he didn't want to go; den
he wouldn't budge. I ricollects one time dey tuk a bundle of fodder and
tied it to Old Jim's tail, but still he wouldn't move. Old Marster kep'
a special man to fetch and carry mail for de plantation in a road cyart,
and nobody warn't 'lowed to go nigh dat cyart.

"When slaves got in from de fields at night dey cooked and et deir
supper and went to bed. Dey had done been wukin' since sunup. When dere
warn't so much to do in de fields, sometimes Old Marster let his Niggers
lay off from wuk atter dinner on Saddays. If de chinches was most eatin'
de Niggers up, now and den de 'omans was 'lowed to stay to de house to
scald evvything and clear 'em out, but de menfolkses had to go on to de
field. On Sadday nights de 'omans patched, washed, and cut off peaches
and apples to dry in fruit season. In de daytime dey had to cut off and
dry fruit for Old Miss. When slaves got smart wid deir white folkses,
deir Marsters would have 'em beat, and dat was de end of de matter. Dat
was a heap better'n dey does now days, 'cause if a Nigger gits out of
place dey puts him on de chaingang. [TR: 'Whipping' written in margin.]

"Sunday was a day off for all de slaves on our plantation. Cause, de
mens had to look atter de stock in de lot right back of de cabins. De
'omans cooked all day for de next week. If dey tuk a notion to go to
church, mules was hitched to wagons made lak dippers, and dey jigged off
down de road. Us had four days holiday for Christmas. Old Miss give us
lots of good things to eat dem four days; dere was cake, fresh meat, and
all kinds of dried fruit what had been done stored away. All de Niggers
tuk dat time to rest but my Mammy. She tuk me and went 'round to de
white folkses' houses to wash and weave. Dey said I was a right smart,
peart little gal, and white folkses used to try to hire me from Old
Miss. When dey axed her for me, Old Miss allus told 'em: 'You don't want
to hire dat gal; she ain't no 'count.' She wouldn't let nobody hire her
Niggers, 'cept Mammy, 'cause she knowed Mammy warn't gwine to leave her
nohow. On New Year's Day, if dere warn't too much snow on de ground, de
Niggers burnt brush and cleared new ground.

"When Aunt Patience led de singin' at cornshuckin's, de shucks sho'ly
did fly. Atter de corn was shucked, dey fed us lots of good things and
give us plenty of liquor. De way cotton pickin' was managed was dis:
evvybody dat picked a thousand pounds of cotton in a week's time was
'lowed a day off. Mammy picked her thousand pounds evvy week.

"Dances? Now you's talkin' 'bout somepin' sho' 'nough. Old John, de
fiddler man, was right dere on our plantation. Niggers dat had done
danced half de night would be so sleepy when de bugle sounded dey
wouldn't have time to cook breakfast. Den 'bout de middle of de mawnin'
dey would complain 'bout bein' so weak and hongry dat de overseer would
fetch 'em in and have 'em fed. He let 'em rest 'bout a hour and a half;
den he marched 'em back to de field and wuked 'em 'til slap black dark.
Aunt Sook was called de lead wench. If de moon warn't out, she put a
white cloth 'round her shoulders and led 'em on.

"Didn't none of Old Marsters chillun marry in slavery time, but Old
Miss, she let us see a Nigger gal named Frances Hester git married. When
I sot down to dat weddin' supper I flung de chicken bones over my
shoulder, 'cause I didn't know no better. I don't 'member what gals
played when I was little, but boys played ball all day long if dey was
'lowed to. One boy, named Sam, played and run so hard he tuk his bed
Monday and never got up no more.

"I heared tell of Raw Haid and Bloody Bones. Old folkses would skeer us
most nigh to death tellin' us he was comin'. Mankind! Us made for de
house den. Missy, please mam, don't ax me 'bout dem ha'nts. I sees 'em
all de time. Atter she had done died out, Old Miss used to come back all
de time. She didn't lak it 'cause day wropped her in a windin' sheet and
buried her by de doorsteps, but I reckon dey done fixed her by now,
'cause she don't come back no more. Dere's a house in Athens, called de
Bell House, dat nobody kin live in, 'cause a man run his wife from home
and atter she died, she come back and ha'nted dat house.

"Lawd have mercy! Look here, don't talk lak dat. I ain't told you before
but part o' dis here yard is conjured. A man comes here early evvy
mornin' and dresses dis yard down wid conjuration. Soon as I sot down
here to talk to you, a pain started in my laigs, and it is done gone all
over me now. I started to leave you and go in de house. Come on. Let's
leave dis yard right now. Hurry!" On reaching the kitchen Addie hastily
grasped the pepper box and shook its contents over each shoulder and on
her head, saying: "Anything hot lak dis will sho drive dis spell away.
De reason I shakes lak I does, one day I was in de yard and somepin
cotch me. It helt fast to my footses, den I started to shake all over,
and I been shakin' ever since. A white 'oman gimme some white soap, and
evvy mornin' I washes myself good wid dat soap 'fore I puts on my

Leaving the kitchen, Addie entered the front room which serves as a
bedroom. "Lawdy, Missy!" she exclaimed, "Does you smell dat funny scent?
Oh, Good Lawd! Jus' look at dem white powders on my doorstep! Let me git
some hot water and wash 'em out quick! Now Missy, see how dese Niggers
'round here is allus up to deir meanness? Dere's a man in de udder room
bilin' his pizen right now. I has to keep a eye on him all de time or
dis here old Nigger would be in her grave. I has to keep somepin hot all
de time to keep off dem conjure spells. I got three pids of pepper most
ready to pick, and I'se gwine to tie 'em 'round my neck, den dese here
spells folkses is all de time tryin' to put on me won't do me no harm."

Addie now lowered her voice to a stage whisper. "I found a folded up
piece of white paper under our back doorstep dis very mornin'. Bless
your life, I got a stick from de kitchen quick and poked it in a crack
in de steps and got it out 'fore I put my foots down on dem steps. I sho

Here Addie reverted to her story of the plantation. "Old Marster was
mighty good to his Niggers," she said. When any of 'em got sick Old Miss
sont to town for him, and he allus come right out and fetched a doctor.
Old Miss done her very best for Pappy when he was tuk sick, but he died
out jus' de same. Pappy used to drive a oxcart and, when he was bad off
sick and out of his haid, he hollered out: 'Scotch dat wheel! Scotch dat
wheel!' In his mind, he was deep in de bad place den, and didn't know
how to pray. Old Miss, she would say: 'Pray, Pete, Pray.' Old Miss made
a heap of teas from diff'unt things lak pennyroyal, algaroba wood,
sassafras, flat tobacco, and mullein. Us wore rabbits foots, little bags
of asfiddy (asafetida), and garlic tabs 'round our necks to keep off
mis'ries. I wishes I had a garlic tab to wear 'round my neck now.

"One day Old Miss called us togedder and told us dat us was free as jay
birds. De Niggers started hollerin': 'Thank de Lawd, us is free as de
jay birds.' 'Bout dat time a white man come along and told dem Niggers
if he heared 'em say dat again he would kill de last one of 'em. Old
Miss axed us to stay on wid her and dar us stayed for 'bout three years.
It paid us to stay dere 'stead of runnin' off lak some udder Niggars dat
played de fool done. T'warn't long 'fore dem Yankees come 'long, and us
hustled off to town to see what dey looked lak. I never seed so many
mens at one time in my life before. When us got back to de plantation de
overseer told us not to drink no water out of de well, 'cause somebody
had done put a peck of pizen in dar. He flung a whole bushel of salt in
de well to help git rid of de pizen.

"Atter de end of de war, I went to wuk as a plow-hand. I sho did keep
out of de way of dem Ku Kluxers. Folkses would see 'em comin' and holler
out: 'De Ku Kluxers is ridin' tonight. Keep out of deir way, or dey will
sho kill you.' Dem what was skeered of bein' cotched and beat up, done
deir best to stay out of sight.

"It was a long time atter de war was done over 'fore schools for Niggers
was sot up, and den when Nigger chillun did git to go to school dey
warn't 'lowed to use de old blue-back spellin' book 'cause white folkses
said it larn't 'em too much.

"It was two or three years atter de war 'fore any of de Niggers could
save up enough money to start buyin' land, and den, if dey didn't watch
dey steps mighty keerful, de white folkses would find a way to git dat
land back from de Niggers.

"What! Is I got to tell you 'bout dat old Nigger I got married up wid? I
don't want to talk 'bout dat low down, no 'count devil. Anyhow, I
married Ed Griffeth and, sho dat, I had a weddin'. My weddin' dress was
jus' de purtiest thing; it was made out of parade cloth, and it had a
full skirt wid ruffles from de knees to de hem. De waist fitted tight
and it was cut lowneck wid three ruffles 'round de shoulder. Dem puff
sleeves was full from de elbow to de hand. All dem ruffles was aidged
wid lace and, 'round my waist I wore a wide pink sash. De underskirt was
trimmed wid lace, and dere was lace on de bottom of de drawers laigs.
Dat was sho one purty outfit dat I wore to marry dat no 'count man in. I
had bought dat dress from my young Mist'ess.

"Us had seven chillun and ten grandchillun. Most of 'em is livin' off up
in Detroit. If Ed ain't daid by now he ought to be; he was a good match
for de devil.

"I reckon Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Jeff Davis done right as fur as dey knowed
how and could. If dem northern folkses hadn't fotched us here, us sho
wouldn't never have been here in de fust place. Den dey hauled off and
said de South was mean to us Niggers and sot us free, but I don't know
no diffunce. De North sho let us be atter dat war, and some of de old
Niggers is still mad 'cause dey is free and ain't got no Marster to feed
'em and give 'em good warm clothes no more.

"Oh! You gits happy when you jines up wid de church. I sho don't want to
go to de bad place. Dere ain't but two places to go to, Heaven and hell,
and I'se tryin' to head for Heaven. Folkses says dat when Old Dives done
so bad he had to go to de bad place, a dog was sot at his heels for to
keep him in dar. No Mam, if it's de Good Lawd's will to let me git to
Heaven, I is sho gwine to keep out of hell, if I kin.

"Goodbye, Missy. Next time you comes fetch me a garlic tab to keep de
conjure spells 'way from me," was Addie's parting request.


1491 W. Broad Street
Athens, Georgia

Written by:
Grace McCune

Edited by:
Sarah H. Hall

John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7
Augusta, Ga.
[Date Stamp: MAY 13 1938]

Hurrying for shelter from a sudden shower, the interviewer heard a
cheerful voice singing "Lord I'se Comin' Home," as she rushed up the
steps of Aunt Emma's small cabin. Until the song was ended she quietly
waited on the tiny porch and looked out over the yard which was
attractive with roses and other old-fashioned flowers; then she knocked
on the door.

Dragging footsteps and the tap, tap of a crutch sounded as Aunt Emma
approached the door. "Come in out of dat rain, chile, or you sho' will
have de pneumony," she said. "Come right on in and set here by my fire.
Fire feels mighty good today. I had to build it to iron de white folkses
clothes." Aunt Emma leaned heavily on her crutch as she wielded the iron
with a dexterity attainable only by long years of experience. Asked if
her lameness and use of a crutch made her work difficult, she grinned
and answered: "Lawsy chile, I'se jus' so used to it, I don't never think
'bout it no more. I'se had to wuk all of my life, no matter what was in
de way." The comfort, warmth and cheer of the small kitchen encouraged
intimate conversation and when Aunt Emma was asked for the story of her
childhood days and her recollections of slavery, she replied: "I was too
little to 'member much, but I'se heared my Ma tell 'bout dem days.

"My Pa and Ma was Louis and Mary Jackson. Dey b'longed to Marse John
Montgomery, way down in Oconee County. Marse John didn't have no wife
den, 'cause he didn't git married 'til atter de War. He had a big place
wid lots of slaves. He was sho' good to 'em, and let 'em have plenty of
evvything. De slave quarters was log cabins wid big fireplaces, whar dey
done de cookin'. Dey had racks to hang pots on to bile and dey baked in
ovens set on de harth (hearth). Dat was powerful good eatin'. Dey had a
big old gyarden whar dey raised plenty of corn, peas, cabbages,
potatoes, collards, and turnip greens. Out in de fields dey growed
mostly corn, wheat, and cotton. Marster kep' lots of chickens, cows,
hogs, goats, and sheep; and he fed 'em all mighty good.

"Marster let his slaves dance, and my Ma was sho' one grand dancer in
all de breakdown's. Dey give 'em plenty of toddy and Niggers is dancers
f'um way back yonder while de toddy lasts.

"Slaves went to deir Marster's meetin's and sot in de back of de church.
Dey had to be good den 'cause Marster sho' didn't 'low no cuttin' up
'mongst his Niggers at de church. Ma said he didn't believe in whuppin'
his Niggers lessen it jus' had to be done, but den dey knowed he was
'round dar when he did have to whup 'em.

"Ma said when dey had big baptizin's in de river dey prayed and shouted
and sung 'Washin' 'way my Sins,'--'Whar de Healin' Water Flows,' and
'Crossin' de River Jerdan.' De white preacher baptized de slaves and den
he preached--dat was all dere was to it 'ceppen de big dinner dey had in
de churchyard on baptizin' days.

"When slaves died, dey made coffins out of pine wood and buried 'em whar
de white folkses was buried. If it warn't too fur a piece to de
graveyard, dey toted de coffin on three or four hand sticks. Yessum,
hand sticks, dat's what day called 'em. Dey was poles what dey sot de
coffin on wid a Nigger totin' each end of de poles. De white preacher
prayed and de Niggers sung 'Hark f'um de Tomb.'

"Ma said she had a grand big weddin'. She wore a white swiss dress wid a
bleachin' petticoat, made wid heaps of ruffles and a wreath of flowers
'round her head. She didn't have no flower gals. Pa had on a long, frock
tail, jim swinger coat lak de preacher's wore. A white preacher married
'em in de yard at de big house. All de Niggers was dar, and Marster let
'em dance mos' all night.

"I was de oldest of Ma's 10 chillun. Dey done all gone to rest now
'ceptin' jus' de three of us what's lef in dis world of trouble. Yessum,
dere sho' is a heap of trouble here.

"Atter de War, Ma and Pa moved on Mr. Bill Marshall's place to farm for
him and dar's whar I was born. Dey didn't stay dar long 'fore dey moved
to Mr. Jim Mayne's place away out in de country, in de forks of de big
road down below Watkinsville. I sho' was a country gal. Yessum, I sho'
was. Mr. Mayne's wife was Mrs. Emma Mayne and she took a lakin' to me
'cause I was named Emma. I stayed wid her chilluns all de time, slep' in
de big house, and et dar too, jus' lak one of dem, and when dey bought
for dey chillun dey bought for me too.

"Us wore homespun dresses and brass toed shoes. Sometimes us would git
mighty mad and fuss over our games and den Miss Emma would make us come
in de big house and set down. No Ma'am, she never did whup us. She was
good and she jus' talked to us, and told us us never would git to Heb'en
lessen us was good chillun. Us played games wid blocks and jumped de
rope and, when it was warm, us waded in de crick. Atter I was big
'nough, I tuk de white chillun to Sunday School, but I didn't go inside
den--jus' waited on de outside for 'em. I never got a chanct to go to
school none, but de white chilluns larnt me some.

"Marse Jim was mighty good to de Niggers what wukked for him, and us all
loved him. He didn't 'low no patterollers or none of dem Ku Kluxers
neither to bother de Niggers on his place. He said he could look atter
'em his own self. He let 'em have dances, and evvy Fourth of July he had
big barbecues. Yessum, he kilt hogs, goats, sheep and sometimes a cow
for dem barbecues. He believed in havin' plenty to eat.

"I 'members dem big corn shuckin's. He had de mostes' corn, what was in
great big piles put in a circle. All de neighbors was axed to come and
bring deir Niggers. De fus' thing to do was to 'lect a gen'ral to stand
in de middle of all dem piles of corn and lead de singin' of de reels.
No Ma'am, I don't 'member if he had no shuck stuck up on his hat or not,
and I can't ricollec' what de words of de reels was, 'cause us chillun
was little den, but de gen'ral he pulled off de fus' shuck. Den he
started singin' and den dey all sung in answer to him, and deir two
hands a-shuckin' corn kep' time wid de song. As he sung faster, dey jus'
made dem shucks more dan fly. Evvy time de gen'ral would speed up de
song, de Niggers would speed up deir corn shuckin's. If it got dark
'fore dey finished, us chillun would hold torch lights for 'em to see
how to wuk. De lights was made out of big pine knots what would burn a
long time. Us felt mighty big when us was 'lowed to hold dem torches.
When dey got done shuckin' all de corn, dey had a big supper, and Honey,
dem was sho' some good eatments--barbecue of all sorts--jus' thinkin'
'bout dem pies makes me hongry, even now. Ma made 'em, and she couldn't
be beat on chicken pies and sweet potato pies. Atter dey done et and
drunk all dey wanted, Marse Jim would tell 'em to go to it. Dat was de
word for de gen'ral to start up de dancin', and dat lasted de rest of de
night; dat is if dey didn't all fall out, for old time corn shuckin'
breakdowns was drag-outs and atter all dem 'freshments, hit sho' kept
somebody busy draggin' out dem what fell out. Us chillun was 'lowed to
stay up long as us wanted to at corn shuckin's, and sometimes us would
git out and try to do lak de grown-up Niggers. Hit was de mos' fun.

"Dey went huntin' and fishin' and when dey cotch or kilt much, dey had a
big supper. I 'members de fus' time I ever cooked 'possum. Ma was sick
in de bed, and de mens had done been 'possum huntin'. Ma said I would
jus' have to cook dem 'possums. She told me how to fix 'em and she said
to fix 'em wid potatoes and plenty of butter and red pepper. Den she
looked at me right hard and said dat dey had better be jus' right. Dat
skeered me so I ain't never been so I could eat no 'possum since den.
Yessum, dey was cooked jus' right, but cookin' 'em jus' once when I was
skeered cured me of de taste for eatin' 'possum.

"Us chillun didn't git out and go off lak dey does dese days. Us stayed
dar on de plantation. In winter us had to wear plenty of clothes, wid
flannel petticoats and sich lak, and us stayed in by de fire. Big boys
had clothes made out of jeans, but little boys wore homespun shirts. On
hot days us jus' wore one piece of clothes, a sort of shirt what was
made long and had a yoke in it.

"Dey made me use snuff to cure my sore eyes when I was little, and I
never could quit usin' it no more. When I was 'bout 15, Ma and Pa moved
to Athens and I went to wuk for Mr. Joe Webb's fambly. I wukked for 'em
for 30 years and raised all deir chillun. Dey was all mighty good to me
and seed dat I had plenty of evvything. I would still be dar, but de old
folkses all done died out and gone to dey rest and de younguns done
married and lef' here.

"I was wukkin' right in de house wid 'em when I 'cided to git married.
Yes Ma'am, I sho' done had one swell elegant weddin'. Jus' evvything
heart could ask for. I married at my Ma's house, but my white folkses
was all right dar, and dey had done fixed de house up pretty wid flowers
all over it. Dey give me my white flannel weddin' dress and it was sho'
pretty, but dey warn't nothin' lackin' 'bout my second day dress. My
white folkses bought dat too,--It was a bottle green silk. Lawsy, but I
was sho' one dressed up bride. It was 8 o'clock dat night when de
preacher got finished wid tyin' dat knot for me and Sam Virgel. My
sister and her fellow stood up wid us and us had a big crowd at our
weddin' supper. Dere was one long table full of our white folkses,
'sides all de Niggers, and I jus' never seed so much to eat. My white
folkses said dat Emma jus' had to have plenty for her weddin' feast and
dey evermore did lay out good things for dat supper, and dem Niggers
sho' did hide dat chicken and cake away lak dey hadn't never seed none

"I wukked on for de Webbs 'til dey was all gone. De old folks is in
Heb'en whar I 'spects to see 'em some day when de Lord done called me
home. De younguns moved away, but I still loves 'em evvyone, 'cause dey
looked atter old Emma so good when dey was here. Us never had no chillun
and Sam done been gone to his res' long years ago. I'se jus' a-wukkin
and a-waitin 'til I gits called to go too. I don't have plenty all de
time now lak I used to, and nobody here looks atter old Emma no more,
but I makes out.

"I'se mighty glad it rained if dat's what sont you to my door. It's been
nice to talk wid white folkses again. I wisht I had somepin' nice for
you! Let me cut you a bunch of my flowers?" She carefully placed her
iron on the hearth and hobbled out in the yard. The May shower had been
followed by sunshine as she handed her guest a huge bouquet of roses,
Aunt Emma bowed low. "Good-bye, Missy," she said, "please come back to
see me."

[HW: Dist. 7
Ex-Slave #110]
Adella S. Dixon

[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

Ten years before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, a son was
born to Antony and Patience Walton who lived in Lumpkin, Stewart County,
Ga. When this son, Rhodus, was three weeks old, his mother, along with
the three younger children, was sold. His father and the thirteen sons
and daughters that she left behind were never seen again. His parents'
birthplace and the name they bore before moving to the Walton home are
unknown to Rhodus and he never was able to trace his family even after

The Walton plantation, home of Mr. Sam B. Walton who purchased his
mother, was a very large one with the "Big House" on an elevation near
the center. The majestic colonial home with its massive columns was seen
for miles around and from its central location the master was able to
view his entire estate.

Approximately one block from the planter's home, the "quarters" were
clustered. These were numerous loghouses with stick-and-clay chimneys in
which the slave families dwelt. Each house was composed of one room
sparsely furnished. The beds were corded with rope and as large families
were stressed, it was often necessary for several members to sleep on
the floor. There was an open fireplace at which family meals were
prepared. Equipment consisted of an iron pot suspended by a hanger and a
skillet with long legs that enabled the cook to place fire beneath it.
Bread known as "ash cake" was sometimes cooked on the hot coals.

The auction block was located not far from this old home. Here Rhodus
Walton with other young children watched slaves emerge from boxcars,
where they had been packed so closely that there was no room to sit, to
be sold to the highest bidder. This was one of his most vivid

As Rhodus' father did not come to this home with his family, he knows
nothing of him. Except for brief intervals his mother worked in the
house where cotton and wool were spun into thread and then woven into
cloth from which the slaves' clothing was made. An elder sister nursed
the master's smaller children. Rhodus' first duties were to drive the
cows to and from the pastures and to keep the calves from annoying the

His master was a very cruel man whose favorite form of punishment was to
take a man (or woman) to the edge of the plantation where a rail fence
was located. His head was then placed between two rails so that escape
was impossible and he was whipped until the overseer was exhausted. This
was an almost daily occurrence, administered on the slightest

Saturday was the only afternoon off and Christmas was the only vacation
period, but one week of festivities made this season long remembered.
Many "frolics" were given and everyone danced where banjoes were
available; also, these resourceful people secured much of their music
from an improvised fiddle fashioned from a hand saw. Immediately after
these festivities, preparations began for spring planting. New ground
was cleared; old land fertilized and the corn fields cleared of last
year's rubbish.

Courtship began at a later age than is customary now but they were much
more brief. Gifts to one's sweetheart were not permitted, but verses
such as:

  Roses are red,
  Violets blue,
  I don't love
  No one but you

were invariably recited to the loved one. Young negro men always
"cocked" their hats on one side of their heads when they became
interested in the other sex. Marriages were performed by the master.
Common law situations did not exist.

Serious illnesses were not frequent and home remedies compounded of
roots and herbes usually sufficed. Queensy's light root, butterfly
roots, scurry root, red shank root, bull tongue root were all found in
the woods and the teas made from their use were "cures" for many
ailments. Whenever an illness necessitated the services of a physician,
he was called. One difference in the old family doctor and those of
today was the method of treatment. The former always carried his
medicine with him, the latter writes prescriptions. The fee was also
much smaller in olden times.

Food was distributed weekly in quantities according to the size of the
family. A single man would receive:

  1 pk. meal            on Sunday

  1 qt. syrup           flour (seconds)

  3-1/2 lbs. meat       Holidays--July 4th and Christmas
                                  fresh meat.

Peas, pepper grass, polk salad were plentiful in the fields. Milk and
"pot likker" could be had from the big house when desired, although
every family cooked for itself. Saturday afternoon was the general
fishing time and each person might catch as many as he needed for his
personal use.

The slaves did most of the weaving on the plantation, but after the
cloth was woven the problem of giving it color presented itself. As they
had no commercial dye, certain plants were boiled to give color. A plant
called indigo, found in the cotton patch, was the chief type of dye,
although thare was another called copperas. The dresses made from this
material were very plain.

Walton believes in most of the old signs and superstitions because he
has "watched them and found that they are true." The continuous singing
of a whipporwill near a house is a sign of death, but if an iron is
placed in the fire and allowed to remain there, the bird will fly away.

When the news of the war finally reached the plantation, the slaves
followed the progress with keen interest and when battles were fought
near Columbus, and firing of guns was heard, they cried joyfully--"It
ain't gonna be long now." Two of their master's sons fought in the
Confederate Army, but both returned home before the close of the war.
One day news came that the Yankee soldiers were soon to come, and Walton
began to hide all valuables. The slaves were sent to the cemetery to dig
very deep graves where all manner of food was stored. They were covered
like real graves and wooden slabs placed at either end. For three days
before the soldiers were expected, all the house servants were kept busy
preparing delicacies with which to tempt the Yankees and thus avoid
having their place destroyed. In spite of all this preparation, they
were caught unawares and when the "blue coats" were seen approaching,
the master and his two sons ran. The elder made his way to the woods;
the younger made away on "Black Eagle" a horse reputed to run almost a
mile a minute. Nearly everything on the place was destroyed by these
invaders. One bit of information has been given in every interview where
Northern soldiers visited a plantation, they found, before coming,
whether the Master was mean or kind and always treated him as he had
treated his slaves. Thus Mr. Walton was "given the works" as our modern
soldiers would say.

When the war ended the slaves were notified that they were free. Just
before Rhodus' family prepared to move, his mother was struck on the
head by a drunken guest visiting at the "big house." As soon as she
regained consciousness, the family ran off without communicating with an
elder sister who had been sold to a neighbor the previous year. A year
later, news of this sister reached them through a wagoner who recognized
the small boys as he passed them. He carried the news to the family's
new residence back to the lost sister and in a few weeks she arrived at
Cuthbert to make her home with her relatives.

For the past 9 years Rhodus has been unable to work as he is a victim of
a stroke on his left side; both sides have been ruptured, and his nerves
are bad. He attributes his long life to his faith in God.

[HW: Dist. 5
Ex-slave #111

[Date Stamp: 10-8-1937]

In a small one-room apartment located on one of Atlanta's back streets
lives William Ward, an ex-slave, whose physical appearance in no way
justifies his claim to being 105 years of age. He is about five ft. in
height with a rather smooth brown complexion. What hair he has is gray.
He moves about like a much younger person. For a person of his age his
thoughts and speech are remarkably clear.

On a bright sunny afternoon in September this writer had an opportunity
of talking with Mr. Ward and in the course of the conversation some very
interesting things were learned regarding the institution of slavery and
its customs. Ward took a dip of snuff from his little tin box and began
his story by saying that he is the son of Bill and Leana Ward who were
brought to this country from Jamaica, B.W.I. The first thing he
remembers was the falling of the stars in 1833. From that time until he
was 9 years old he played around the yard with other slave children.
Then his parents were sent back to Jamaica by their master, the former
Governor Joseph E. Brown. While he was in bondage he carried the name of
his masters instead of Ward, his parents' name.

From the age of 9 until he was old enough to do heavy work, he kept the
master's yard clean.

Although Mr. Brown owned between 50 and 75 slaves, he had no plantation
but hired his slaves out to other men who needed more help but were not
able to own as many slaves as their work required.

Mr. Ward and his fellow slaves lived in one-room houses in the rear of
the master's home. The furnishings consisted of a bed which was known as
a "Grand Rascal" due to its peculiar construction. The mattress made in
the form of a large bag was stuffed with hat and dried grass.

At daybreak each morning they were called from these crude beds to
prepare for the day's work. Breakfast, which consisted of white bacon,
corn bread, and imitation coffee, was served before they left for the
scene of their day's work. Incidentally the slaves under Mr. Brown's
ownership never had any other form of bread than corn bread.

This imitation coffee was made by putting corn meal in a pan, parching
it until it reached a deep golden brown and steeping it in boiling
water. At noon, dinner was brought to them in the field in wash tubs
placed on carts drawn by oxen. Dinner consisted of fat meat, peas and
corn bread. Often all laundry was done in these same tubs.

The only time that this diet ever varied was at Christmas time when the
master had all slaves gathered in one large field. Then several hogs
were killed and barbecued. Everyone was permitted to eat as much as he
could, but was forbidden to take anything home. When some one was
fortunate enough to catch a possum or a coon, he had a change of food.

On Sundays the slaves were permitted to have a religious meeting of
their own. This usually took place in the back yard or in a building
dedicated for this purpose. They sang spirituals which gave vent to
their true feelings. Many of these songs are sung today. There was one
person who did the preaching. His sermon was always built according to
the master's instructions which were that slaves must always remember
that they belonged to their masters and were intended to lead a life of
loyal servitude. None of the slaves believed this, although they
pretended to believe because of the presence of the white overseer. If
this overseer was absent sometimes and the preacher varied in the text
of his sermon, that is, if he preached exactly what he thought and felt,
he was given a sound whipping.

Mr. Brown was a kind person and never mistreated his slaves, although he
did furnish them with the whip for infractions of rules such as
fighting, stealing, visiting other plantations without a "pass", etc.
Ward vividly recalls that one of the soundest thrashings he ever got was
for stealing Mr. Brown's whisky. His most numerous offenses were
fighting. Another form of punishment used in those days was the stocks,
such as those used in early times in England. Serious offenses like
killing another person was also handled by the master who might hang him
to a tree by the feet or by the neck, as he saw fit.

Few slaves ever attempted to escape from Mr. Brown, partially because of
his kindliness and partically because of the fear inspired by the pack
of blood hounds which he kept. When an escaped slave was caught he was
returned to his master and a sound beating was administered.

As far as marriage was concerned on the Brown estate, Mr. Brown, himself
placed every two individuals together that he saw fit to. There was no
other wedding ceremony. If any children were born from the union, Mr.
Brown named them. One peculiarity on the Brown estate was the fact that
the slaves were allowed no preference or choice as to who his or her
mate would be. Another peculiarity was these married couples were not
permitted to sleep together except when the husband received permission
to spend the night with his wife. Ward is the father of 17 children
whose whereabouts he does not know.

At this point Ward began to smile, and when he was asked the cause of
his mirth, he replied that he was thinking about his fellow slaves
beliefs in conjuring one another. This was done by putting some sort of
wild berries in the person's food. What he can't understand is why some
of this black magic was not tried on the white people since they were
holding the Negroes as slaves.

Ward recalls vividly Sherman's march through Georgia. When Sherman
reached the present site of Hapeville, he bombarded Atlanta with cannon,
afterwards marching through and burning the city. The white residents
made all sorts of frantic attempts to hide their money and other
valuables. Some hiding places were under stumps of trees and in sides of
hills. Incidentally Sherman's army found quite a bit of the hidden
wealth. Slaves were never allowed to talk over events and so very few,
if any, knew about the war or its results for them before it actually
happened. At the time that Sherman marched through Atlanta, Ward and
other slaves were living in an old mansion at the present site of
Peachtree and Baker Streets. He says that Sherman took him and his
fellow slaves as far as Virginia to carry powder and shot to the
soldiers. He states that he himself did not know whether Sherman
intended to keep him in slavery or free him. At the close of the war,
his master, Mr. Brown, became ill and died later. Before His death he
informed the slaves that they could remain on his property or go where
they wanted to. Ward was taken to Mississippi where he remained in
another form of slavery (Peonage System) for 40 years. He remembers when
Atlanta was just a few hills without any buildings. Some of the
buildings he worked on are the Herman Building and the original Kimball
House, a picture of which is attached.

He attributes his old age to his belief in God and living a sane life.
Whenever he feels bad or in low spirits, a drink of coffee or a small
amount of whisky is enough to brace him. He believes that his remedy is
better than that used in slavery which consisted mainly of pills and
castor oil.

With a cheerful good-bye, Ward asked that the writer stop in to see him
again; said that he would rather live in the present age under existing
conditions than live in slavery.

JWL 10-12-37


Following is Mr. William Ward's description of the bed called "The Grand

"De beds dat all o' de slaves slept in wus called 'Grand Rascals'. Dey
wus made on de same order as a box. De way dey made 'em wus like dis:
dey took four strips of narrow wood, each one of 'em 'bout a foot wide,
an' den dey nailed 'em together so dat dey wus in de shape of a square.
Den dey nailed a bottom onto dis square shape. Dis bottom wus called de
slats. When dis wus finished dey set dis box on some legs to keep it
off'n de floor, an' den dey got busy wid de mattress. Dey took ol' oat
sacks an' filled 'em wid straw an' hay an' den dey put dis in de box an'
slept on it. Dere wusn't no springs on dese bunks an' everybody had a
hard time sleepin'.

"De real name of dese wus 'Sonova-Bitches' but de slaves called 'em
'Grand Rascals' 'cause dey didn't want people to hear 'em use a bad

"After Sherman come through Atlanta he let de slaves go, an' when he
did, me an' some of de other slaves went back to our ol' masters. Ol'
man Gov. Brown wus my boss man. After de war wus over Ol' man Gordon
took me an' some of de others out to Mississippi. I stayed in peonage
out dere fer 'bout forty years. I wus located at jes' 'bout forty miles
south of Greenwood, an' I worked on de plantations of Ol' man Sara Jones
an' Ol' man Gordon.

"I couldn't git away 'cause dey watched us wid guns all de time. When de
levee busted dat kinda freed me. Man, dey was devils; dey wouldn't 'low
you to go nowhere--not even to church. You done good to git sumpin' to
eat. Dey wouldn't give you no clothes, an' if you got wet you jes' had
to lay down in whut you got wet in.

"An', man, dey would whup you in spite of de devil. You had to ask to
git water--if you didn't dey would stretch you 'cross a barrel an' wear
you out. If you didn't work in a hurry dey would whup you wid a strap
dat had five-six holes in it. I ain't talkin' 'bout whut I heard--I'm
talkin' 'bout whut I done see'd.

"One time dey sent me on Ol' man Mack Williams' farm here in Jasper
County, Georgia. Dat man would kill you sho. If dat little branch on his
plantation could talk it would tell many a tale 'bout folks bein'
knocked in de head. I done seen Mack Williams kill folks an' I done seen
'im have folks killed. One day he tol' me dat if my wife had been good
lookin', I never would sleep wid her again 'cause he'd kill me an' take
her an' raise chilluns off'n her. Dey uster take women away fum dere
husbands an' put wid some other man to breed jes' like dey would do
cattle. Dey always kept a man penned up an' dey used 'im like a stud

"When you didn't do right Ol' Mack Williams would shoot you or tie a
chain 'roun your neck an' throw you in de river. He'd git dem other
niggers to carry dem to de river an' if dey didn't he'd shoot 'em down.
Any time dey didn't do whut he said he would shoot 'em down. He'd tell
'em to "Ketch dat nigger", an' dey would do it. Den he would tell 'em to
put de chain 'roun dere neck an' throw 'em in de river. I ain't heard
dis--I done seen it.

"In 1927 I wus still in peonage but I wus back in Mississippi on
Gordon's farm. When de levee broke in May of dat same year I lost my
wife an' three chilluns. I climbed a tree an' stayed dere fer four days
an' four nights. Airplanes dropped food an' when I got ready to eat I
had to squeeze de water out of de bread. After four days I got out of de
tree an' floated on logs down de river 'till I got to Mobile, Alabama,
an' I wade fum dere to Palmetto, Georgia, where I got down sick. De boss
mans dere called Gov. Harden an' he sent de Grady Hospital examiners
down dere an' got me an' I been in Atlanta since dat time."

Willie H. Cole


Mrs. Lula Washington was born a slave. She claims to be eighty-four
years old.

Mrs. Washington was confined to bed because of a recent accident in
which she received a broken leg.

She is the mother of twenty-three children of which only two are living.
She lives in one room at 64 Butler St., N.E. with one of her daughters.
Since the death of her husband several years ago she has been making her
living as a dray-women, driving a mule and wagon.

Following are some of the events she remembers. "Ah wuz born in
Randolph, Alabama on de plantation of Marster John Terrell, de sixth
child of my mammy and pappy".

"When ah wuz six years old marster John sold me an' my sister, Lize and
brother, Ben to Marster Charlie Henson."

"Marster Charlie wuz good to his niggers.

"He never whipped dem 'less dey done somethin' awful bad, like stealin
chickens or slipping off de plantation without permission."

"It wuz funny, de white folks would whipped de niggers for stealin' but
if dey saw a hog in de woods, dey would make the niggers catch de hog an
kill him an hide him under dey bushes. Den at night de niggers would
hafta' go down to de spring, build a fire, heat water an skin de hog."

"De man on de plantation next to us' shore wuz mean to his niggers,
Marster Jim Roberts wus his name. He would take his niggers an strip
there clothes to dere waist an' lay dem 'cross a barrel an beat dem 'til
the blood run. Den he would pore salt water on de sore places."

"Oh 'member one time he tied two wimmen by dere thumbs to a limb of a
tree for blessin' out the missus."

"Us had plenty to eat and plenty to wear, calico dresses an' brogan
shoes. Sometimes dere misses would give the wimmen some of her old

"All de niggers on Marster Charlie's plantation had to work in de field
'cept Malindy Lu, a Mulatto nigger gal. Marster Charlie kept her in de
house to take care of Missus Jane, dat wuz Marster Charlie wife."

"One thing 'bout de mulatto niggers, wuz, dey thought dey wuz better
than de black niggers. I guess it wuz 'cause dey was half white. Dere
wuz a bad feelin' 'tween the mulatto slaves an de black ones."

Asked, how did the slaves marry? She replied, "Ah jest don't 'member
seeing any marry 'cause ah wuz so small. Ah wuz jest eleven years old de
time of de war but ah' members hearing some of dem say dat when two
slaves wanted to git married dey would hafta get permission from dere
marster. Den dey would come 'fore de marster an' he would have dem to
jump over a broom an den 'nounce dem married."

"When de Yankees come thru" de white folks told us to go down to de
swamp an hide cause dey would git us. When de war wuz over de white
folks told us we wuz free."

"Marster Terrell gave my mammy an pappy a oxcart an mule an a bushel of
meal. Den my pappy an mammy come got me an my sister an' brother. Den we
come from Randolph, Alabama to Georgia."

"Sometimes I wish I wuz back in slavery, times is so hard."

Mrs. Washington's chief concern now is getting her old-age pension.


347 Fairview Street
Athens, Georgia

Written by:
Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby

Edited by:
Mrs. Sarah H. Hall

John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7
Augusta, Georgia

Sept. 19, 1938

Fairview Street, where Green Willbanks lives is a section of shabby
cottages encircled by privet hedges.

As the visitor carefully ascended the shaky steps to his house a mulatto
man, who was sitting on the veranda, quickly arose. "Good morning," he
said, "Yes mam, this is Green Willbanks. Have a seat in the swing." The
porch furniture was comprised of a chair, a swing, and a long bench.
Green is tall, slender, and stooped; a man with white hair and grizzled
face. A white broadcloth shirt, white cotton trousers, blue socks, and
low-cut black shoes made up his far from immaculate costume.

The old man's eyes brightened when he was asked to give the story of his
life. His speech showed but little dialect, except when he was carried
away by interest and emotion, and his enunciation was remarkably free
from Negroid accent.

"I don't mind telling you what I know," he began, "but I was such a
little chap when the war ended that there's mighty little I can
recollect about slavery time, and it seems that your chief interest is
in that period. I was born on a plantation the other side of Commerce,
Georgia, in Jackson County. My Ma and Pa were Mary and Isom Willbanks;
they were raised on the same plantation where I was born. Ma was a field
hand, and this time of the year when work was short in the
field--laying-by time, we called it--and on rainy days she spun thread
and wove cloth. As the thread left the spinning wheel it went on a reel
where it was wound into hanks, and then it was carried to the loom to be
woven into cloth. Pa had a little trade; he made shoes and baskets, and
Old Boss let him sell them. Pa didn't make shoes for the slaves on our
plantation; Old Boss bought them ready-made and had them shipped here
from the West.

"Me and Jane, Sarah, Mitchell, and Willie were the five children in our
family. Oh! Miss, I was not big enough to do much work. About the most I
done was pick up chips and take my little tin bucket to the spring to
get a cool, fresh drink for Old Miss. Us children stayed 'round the
kitchen and drunk lots of buttermilk. Old Miss used to say, 'Give my
pickaninnies plenty of buttermilk.' I can see that old churn now; it
helt about seven or eight gallons.

"Our houses? Slaves lived in log cabins built the common way. There was
lots of forest pine in those days. Logs were cut the desired length and
notches put in each end so they would fit closely and have as few cracks
as possible, when they stacked them for a cabin. They sawed pine logs
into blocks and used a frow to split them into planks that were used to
cover the cracks between the logs. Don't you know what a frow is? That's
a wooden wedge that you drive into a pine block by hitting it with a
heavy wooden mallet, or maul, as they are more commonly called. They
closed the cracks in some of the cabins by daubing them with red mud.
The old stack chimneys were made of mud and sticks. To make a bed, they
first cut four posts, usually of pine, and bored holes through them with
augers; then they made two short pieces for the head and foot. Two long
pieces for the sides were stuck through the auger holes and the bedstead
was ready to lay on the slats or cross pieces to hold up the mattress.
The best beds had heavy cords, wove crossways and lengthways, instead of
slats. Very few slaves had corded beds. Mattresses were not much; they
were made of suggin sacks filled with straw. They called that straw
'Georgia feathers.' Pillows were made of the same things. Suggin cloth
was made of coarse flax wove in a loom. They separated the flax into two
grades; fine for the white folks, and coarse for the Negroes.

"The only one of my grandparents I can bring to memory now is Grandma
Rose on my Pa's side. She was some worker, a regular man-woman; she
could do any kind of work a man could do. She was a hot horse in her
time and it took an extra good man to keep up with her when it came to

"Children were not allowed to do much work, because their masters
desired them to have the chance to grow big and strong, and therefore
they had few opportunities to earn money of their own. I never did own
any money during slavery days, but I saw plenty of ten cent greenbacks

"White children and slave children played around the plantation together
but they were not allowed to fight. They had to be on friendly terms
with each other.

"What about our food? The biggest thing we had was buttermilk, some
sweet milk, and plenty of cornbread, hog meat, and peas. As a rule we
had wheat bread once a week, usually on Sunday. All kinds of fruits were
plentiful in their seasons. Each slave family was permitted to have
separate garden space, in fact, Old Boss insisted that they work their
own gardens, and they raised plenty of vegetables. Grown folks had
rabbits and 'possums but I never did get much 'quainted with them. We
fished in the cricks and rills 'round the plantation and brought in lots
of hornyheads and perch. You never saw any hornyheads? Why they is just
fish a little bigger and longer than minnows and they have little horns
on their heads. We caught a good many eels too; they look like snakes,
but folks call them eels. I wasn't much 'quainted with them fish they
brought from way down South; they called them mullets.

"The kitchen was a separate log house out in the back yard. The
fireplace, where the cooking was done, took up one end of the kitchen,
and there was a rack acrost it to hang the cook-pots on for biling.
Baking and frying was done in ovens and heavy iron skillets that sat on
trivets so coals could be piled underneath, as well as over the lids.

"The long shirts slave boys wore in summer were straight like a meal
sack open at both ends, with holes in the sides for your arms to go
through. You stuck your head in one end and it came out the other; then
you were fully dressed for any whole summer day. These summer shirts
were made of thin osnaburg. Our winter clothes were made of woolen cloth
called merino. Old Boss kept enough sheep to provide plenty of wool and
some mighty good food. Slave children had no extra or special clothes
for Sunday; they wore the same kind of gowns, or long shirts, seven days
a week. Old Boss provided brass-toed brogans for winter, but we never
thought of such a thing as shoes to wear in hot weather.

"My owners were Marse Solomon and his wife, Miss Ann Willbanks. We
called them Old Boss and Old Miss. As I saw it, they were just as good
as they could be. Old Boss never allowed nobody to impose on his slave
children. When I was a little chap playing around the big house, I would
often drop off to sleep the minute I got still. Good Old Boss would pick
me up and go lay me on his own bed and keep me there 'til Ma come in
from the field.

"Old Boss and Old Miss had five children. The boys were Solomon, Isaac,
James, and Wesley. For the life of me I can't bring to memory the name
of their only daughter. I guess that's because we frolicked with the
four boys, but we were not allowed to play with Little Miss.

"It was a right decent house they lived in, a log house with a fine rock
chimney. Old Boss was building a nice house when the war come on and he
never had a chance to finish it. The log house was in a cedar grove;
that was the style then. Back of the house were his orchards where fruit
trees of every kind we knew anything about provided plenty for all to
eat in season as well as enough for good preserves, pickles, and the
like for winter. Old Boss done his own overseeing and, 'cording to my
memory, one of the young bosses done the driving.

"That plantation covered a large space of land, but to tell you how many
acres is something I can't do. There were not so many slaves. I've
forgot how they managed that business of getting slaves up, but I do
know we didn't get up before day on our place. Their rule was to work
slaves from sunup to sundown. Before they had supper they had a little
piddlin' around to do, but the time was their own to do as they pleased
after they had supper. Heaps of times they got passes and went off to
neighboring plantations to visit and dance, but sometimes they went to
hold prayer-meetings. There were certain plantations where we were not
permitted to go and certain folks were never allowed on our place. Old
Boss was particular about how folks behaved on his place; all his slaves
had to come up to a certain notch and if they didn't do that he punished
them in some way or other. There was no whipping done, for Old Boss
never did believe in whipping slaves.

"None of the slaves from our place was ever put in that county jail at
Jefferson. That was the only jail we ever heard of in those days. Old
Boss attended to all the correction necessary to keep order among his
own slaves. Once a slave trader came by the place and offered to buy Ma.
Old Boss took her to Jefferson to sell her on the block to that man. It
seemed like sales of slaves were not legal unless they took place on the
trading block in certain places, usually in the county site. The trader
wouldn't pay what Old Boss asked for her, and Old Miss and the young
bosses all objected strong to his selling her, so he brought Ma back
home. She was a fine healthy woman and would have made a nice looking
house girl.

"The biggest part of the teaching done among the slaves was by our young
bosses but, as far as schools for slaves was concerned, there were no
such things until after the end of the war, and then we were no longer
slaves. There were just a few separate churches for slaves; none in our
part of the country. Slaves went to the same church as their white folks
and sat in the back of the house or in a gallery. My Pa could read the
Bible in his own way, even in that time of slavery; no other slave on
our place could do that.

"Not one slave or white person either died on our plantation during the
part of slavery that I can bring to memory. I was too busy playing to
take in any of the singing at funerals and at church, and I never went
to a baptizing until I was a great big chap, long after slavery days
were over.

"Slaves ran off to the woods all right, but I never heard of them
running off to no North. Paterollers never came on Old Boss' place
unless he sont for them, otherwise they knowed to stay off. They sho was
devils in sheeps' clothing; that's what we thought of them paterollers.
Slaves worked all day Saddays when there was work to be done, but that
night was their free time. They went where they pleased just so Old Boss
gave them a pass to protect them from paterollers.

"After slaves went to church Sunday they were free the rest of the day
as far as they knowed. Lots of times they got 'em a stump
speaker--usually a Negro--to preach to them. There were not as many
preachers then as now.

"'Bout Christmas Day? They always had something like brandy, cider, or
whiskey to stimulate the slaves on Christmas Day. Then there was fresh
meat and ash-roasted sweet 'taters, but no cake for slaves on our place,
anyhow, I never saw no cake, and surely no Santa Claus. All we knowed
bout Christmas was eating and drinking. As a general thing there was a
big day's work expected on New Years Day because we had to start the
year off right, even if there was nothing for the slaves to do that day
but clean fence corners, cut brush and briers, and burn off new ground.
New Years Day ended up with a big old pot of hog jowl and peas. That was
for luck, but I never really knowed if it brought luck or not.

"Well, yes, once a year they had big cornshuckings in our section and
they had generals to lead off in all the singing; that was done to whoop
up the work. My Pa was one of the generals and he toted the jug of
liquor that was passed 'round to make his crowd hustle. After the corn
was shucked the crowd divided into two groups. Their object was to see
which could reach the owner of the corn first and carry him where he
wanted to go. Usually they marched with him on their shoulders to his
big house and set him down on his porch, then he would give the word for
them to all start eating the good things spread out on tables in the
yard. There was a heap of drinking done then, and dancing too--just all
kinds of dancing that could be done to fiddle and banjo music. My Pa was
one of them fiddlers in his young days. One of the dances was the
cotillion, but just anybody couldn't dance that one. There was a heap of
bowing and scraping to it, and if you were not 'quainted with it you
just couldn't use it.

"When any of the slaves were bad sick Old Boss called in his own family
doctor, Dr. Joe Bradbury. His plantation hit up against ours. The main
things they gave for medicine them days was oil and turpentine.
Sometimes folks got black snakeroot from the woods, biled it, and gave
the tea to sick folks; that was to clean off the stomach. Everybody wore
buckeyes 'round their necks to keep off diseases for we never knowed
nothing about asefetida them days; that came later.

"When the Yankees came through after the surrender Old Boss and Old Miss
hid their valuables. They told us children, 'Now, if they ask you
questions, don't you tell them where we hid a thing.' We knowed enough
to keep our mouths shut. We never had knowed nothing but to mind Old
Boss, and we were scared 'cause our white folks seemed to fear the

"Old Boss had done told slaves they were free as he was and could go
their own way, but we stayed on with him. He provided for Pa and give
him his share of the crops he made. All of us growed up as field hands.

"Them night-riders were something else. They sho did beat on Negroes
that didn't behave mighty careful. Slaves didn't buy much land for a
long time after the war because they didn't have no money, but schools
were set up for Negroes very soon. I got the biggest part of my
education in West Athens on Biggers Hill. When I went to the Union
Baptist School my teacher was Professor Lyons, the founder of that

"When me and Molly Tate were married 50 years ago we went to the church,
because that was the cheapest place to go to have a big gathering. Molly
had on a common, ordinary dress. Folks didn't dress up then like they
does now; it was quite indifferent. Of our 10 children, 8 are living now
and we have 14 grandchildren. Six of our children live in the North and
two have remained here in Athens. One of them is employed at Bernstein's
Funeral Home and the other works on the university campus. I thanks the
Lord that Molly is still with me. We bought this place a long time ago
and have farmed here ever since. In fact, I have never done nothing but
farm work. Now I'm too old and don't have strength to work no more.

"I thinks Abraham Lincoln was a all right man; God so intended that we
should be sot free. Jeff Davis was all right in his way, but I can't say
much for him. Yes mam, I'd rather be free. Sho! Give me freedom all the
time. Jesus said: 'If my Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.'

"When I jined the church, I felt like I was rid of my burden. I sot
aside the things I had been doing and I ain't never been back to pick
'em up no more. I jined the Baptist church and have been teaching a
class of boys every Sunday that I'm able to go. I sho am free from sin
and I lives up to it.

"I wonder if Molly's got them sweet 'taters cooked what I dug this
morning. They warn't much 'count 'cause the sun has baked them hard and
it's been so dry. If you is through with me, I wants to go eat one of
them 'taters and then lay this old Nigger on the bed and let him go to

[HW: Dist 5]
Josephine Lowell


[TR: This interview contained many handwritten edits; where text was
transposed or meaning was significantly changed, it has been noted.]

Just a few recollections of life in slavery time, as told me by [TR:
illegible] who was Eliza Taliaferro Williamson, daughter of Dickerson
and Polly Taliaferro. My mother was born at Mt. Airy, North Carolina,
near the Virginia line, and always went to school, across the line, in
Virginia. Her grandfather was John Taliaferro, slave holder, tobacco
raiser, and farmer. The Negro quarters were near the main or Big House.
Mother said that great-grandfather would go to the back door each night
and call every slave to come in for family prayer. They came and knelt
in the Big House, while old marster prayed. Mother said it was like a
camp-meeting when he died--wailing and weeping by the Negroes for their
old Marster. She said the slaves had the same food that the white family
had and the same warm clothes for winter. All clothing, bed sheeting,
table linen, towels, etc. were hand woven. They raised sheep for wool,
and flax for linen, but I don't know where they got the cotton they
used. The work of the house and farm was divided as with a big family.
Some of the women cooked, sewed, wove, washed, milked, but was never
sent to the field. None of the Toliver family believed in women working
in the field. When each of great-grandfather's children married, he or
she was given a few slaves. I think he gave my grandfather, Dickerson
Taliaferro, three slaves, and these he brought with him to Georgia when
they settled in Whitfield County.

My grandfather was a member of the Legislature from Whitfield County for
two terms. He was as gentle with his slaves as a father would have been,
and was never known to abuse one of them. One of his slaves, who was a
small boy at the close of the War, stayed with my grandfather until he
was a grown man, then after a few years away from home, came home to old
Marster to die. This is the picture of good slave holders, but sad to
say all were not of that type. [TR: deleted: 'See next sheet for'] a
picture of horror, which was also told me by my mother. [TR: deleted:
'The thought of it'] was like a nightmare to my childish mind.

The Story of little Joe.

[TR: deleted: 'Mother said there were'] two families lived on farms
adjacent to her father. They were the two Tucker brothers, tobacco
raisers. One of the wives, Polly, or Pol, as she was called, hated the
family of her husband's brother because they were more affluent than she
liked them to be. It [HW: Her jealousy] caused the two families to live
in disagreement.

Little Joe belonged to Pol's family, and was somewhere between ten and
fourteen years old. Mother said Pol made Joe work in the field at night,
and forced him to sing so they would know he wasn't asleep. He wore
nothing in summer but an old shirt made of rough factory cloth which
came below his knees. She said the only food Pol would give him was
swill [HW: scraps] from the table--handed to him out the back door.
Mother said Pol had some kind of impediment in her speech, which caused
her to say 'ah' at the close of a sentence. So, when she called Joe to
the back door to give him his mess of scraps, she would say, "Here, Joe,
here's your truck, ah." Mother was a little girl then, and she and
grandmother felt so sorry for Joe that they would bake baskets of sweet
potatoes and slip [TR: 'to the field to give him' replaced with
illegible text ending 'in the field']. She said he would come through
the corn, almost crawling, so Pol wouldn't see him, and take the sweet
potatoes in the tail of his shirt and scuttle back through the tall
stuff where he might hide and eat it them.

She had a Negro woman who had a baby (and there may have been other
women) but this Negro woman was not allowed to see her baby except just
as a cow would be let in to her calf at certain times during the day,
[TR: 'then' replaced by ??] she had to go to the field and leave it
alone. Mother said that Pol either threw or kicked the baby into the
yard because it cried, and it died. I don't know why the authorities
didn't arrest her, but she may have had an alibi, or some excuse for the
death of the child.

The Burning of the Tobacco Barn

The [HW: other] Tucker brother had made a fine crop of tobacco that
year, more than a thousand dollars worth in his big barn. Pol made one
of her slaves go with her, [HW: when] and she set fire to the tobacco
barn of her brother-in-law's barn, and not being able to get away [HW:
unable to escape] before the flames [HW: brought] a crowd, she hid in
the grass, right near the path where the people were running to the
fire. She had some kind of stroke, perhaps from fright, or pure deviltry
which 'put her out of business'. I wish I could remember whether it
killed her or just made a paralytic of her, but this is a true story.


288 Bridge Street
Athens, Georgia

Written by:
Sadie B. Hornsby

Edited by:
Sarah H. Hall

Leila Harris

John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Residencies 6 & 7

The interviewer arrived at Frances Willingham's address on a sultry July
morning, and found a fat and very black Negress sweeping the sidewalk
before the three-room frame house. There was no front yard and the front
steps led up from the sidewalk into the house. A vegetable garden was
visible at the rear of the lot. The plump sweeper appeared to be about
five feet tall. Her wooly white hair was plaited in tiny braids, and she
wore a brown print dress trimmed in red and blue. A strand of red beads
encircled her short neck, and a blue checked coat and high topped black
shoes completed her costume. Asked if Frances Willingham was at home,
the woman replied: "Dis is her you is a-talkin' to. Come right in and
have a seat."

When Frances was asked for the story of her life, her daughter who had
doubtless been eavesdropping, suddenly appeared and interrupted the
conversation with, "Ma, now don't you git started 'bout dem old times.
You knows your mind ain't no good no more. Tomorrow your tongue will be
runnin' lak a bell clapper a-talkin' to yourself." "Shut your big mouth,
Henrietta." Frances answered. "I been sick, and I knows it, but dere
ain't nothin' wrong wid my mind and you knows it. What I knows I'se
gwine to tell de lady, and what I don't know I sho' ain't gwine tell no
lie about. Now, Missus, what does you want to know? Don't pay no
'tention to dis fool gal of mine 'cause her mouth is big as dis room.

"I was born way off down in Twiggs County 'bout a mile from de town of
Jeffersonville. My Pa and Ma was Otto and Sarah Rutherford. Our
Mist'ess, dat was Miss Polly, she called Ma, Sallie for short. Dere was
nine of us chillun, me and Esau, Harry, Jerry, Bob, Calvin, Otto, Sallie
and Susan. Susan was our half-sister by our Pa's last marriage. Us
chillun never done much but play 'round de house and yards wid de white
chillun. I warn't but four years old when dey made us free." Henrietta
again interrupted, "See dere, I told you she don't know what she's
a-talkin' 'bout."

Frances ignored the interruption and continued: "Us lived in log cabins
what had jus' one room wid a stick and mud chimbly at de end. Our
bedsteads was made out of rough planks and poles and some of 'em was
nailed to de sides of de cabins. Mattress ticks was made out of osnaburg
and us filled 'em wid wheat straw in season. When dat was used up us got
grass from de fields. Most any kind of hay was counted good 'nough to
put in a slave's mattress. Dey let us mix some cotton wid de hay our
pillows was stuffed wid.

"My grandmas lived on another plantation. I 'members once Grandma Suck,
she wes my Ma's mammy, come to our house and stayed one or two days wid
us. Daddy's Ma was named Puss. Both my grandmas was field hands, but Ma,
she was a house gal 'til she got big enough to do de cyardin' and
spinnin'. Aunt Phoebie done de weavin' and Aunt Polly was de seamster.
All de lak of dat was done atter de craps was done laid by.

"No Ma'am, nobody never give slave chillun no money in dem times. I
never had none 'til atter us had done been give our freedom. I used to
see Old Marster countin' of it, but de slaves never did git none of dat

"Our Old Marster was a pow'ful rich man, and he sho' b'lieved in givin'
us plenty to eat. It warn't nothin' fine, but it was good plain eatin'
what filled you up and kept you well. Dere was cornbread and meat,
greens of all sorts, 'taters, roas'en-ears and more other kinds of
veg'tables dan I could call up all day. Marster had one big old gyarden
whar he kept most evvything a-growin' 'cept cabbages and 'matoes. He
said dem things warn't fittin' for nobody to eat. Marster let Daddy go
huntin' enough to fetch in lots of 'possums, coons, rabbits, and
squirrels. Us cooked 'em 'bout lak us does now, only us never had no
stoves den, and had to do all de cookin' in open fireplaces in big old
pots and long handled skillets what had big old heavy lids. I'se seed Ma
clean many a 'possum in hot ashes. Den she scalded him and tuk out his
innards. She par-boiled and den baked him and when she fetched him to de
table wid a heap of sweet 'taters 'round him on de dish, dat was sho'
somepin good to eat. Daddy done his fishin' in Muddy Crick 'cause slaves
wern't 'lowed to leave de plantation for nothin' lak dat.

"Summertimes us wore homespun dresses, made wid full skirts sewed on to
tight fittin' waisties what was fastened down de back wid buttons made
out of cows and rams horns. Our white petticoat slips and pantalettes
was made on bodices. In winter us wore balmorals what had three stripes
'round de bottom, and over dem us had on long sleeved ap'ons what was
long as de balmorals. Slave gals' pantalettes warn't ruffled and tucked
and trimmed up wid lace and 'broidery lak Miss Polly's chilluns' was.
Ours was jus' made plain. Grown folks wore rough brogans, but me, I wore
de shoes what Miss Polly's chillun had done outgrowed. Dey called 'em
Jackson shoes, 'cause dey was made wid a extra wide piece of leather
sewed on de outside so as when you knocked your ankles 'gainst one
another, it wouldn't wear no holes in your shoes. Our Sunday shoes
warn't no diffunt from what us wore evvyday.

[TR: HW sidenote: 'durable', regarding Jackson Shoes]

"Marse Lish Jones and his wife--she was Miss Polly--was our Marster and
Mist'ess. Dey sho' did love to be good to deir little Niggers. Dey had
five chillun of deir own, two gals and three boys. Dey was: Mary, Anna
Della, Steve, John, and Bob. 'Bout deir house! Oh, Missus, dat was
somepin to see for sho'. It was a big old fine two-story frame house wid
a porch 'cross de front and 'round both sides. Dere was five rooms on de
fust floor and three upstairs. It sho' did look grand a-settin' back dar
in dat big old oak grove.

"Old Marster had a overseer but he never had no car'iage driver 'cause
he loved to drive for hisself so good. Oh Lord! How big was dat
plantation? Why, it must have been as big as from here to town. I never
did know how many slaves Marster had, but dat old plantation was plumb
full of 'em. I ain't never seed Old Marster do nothin' 'cept drive his
car'iage, walk a little, and eat all he wanted to. He was a rich man,
and didn't have to do nothin'.

"Our overseer got all de slaves up 'fore break of day and dey had to be
done et deir breakfast and in de field when de sun riz up. Dat sun would
be down good 'fore dey got to de house at night. I never seed none of de
grown folks git whupped, but I sho' got a good beatin' myself one time.
I had done got up on top of de big house porch and was a-flappin' my
arms and crowin' lak a rooster. Dey told me to come on down, but I
wouldn't mind nobody and kept on a-crowin' and a-flappin', so dey
whupped me down.

"Dey had jails in Jeffersonville, but dem jails was for white folks what
didn't be-have deirselfs. Old Marster, de overseer, and de patterollers
kept de slaves straight. Dey didn't need no jails for dem.

"I ain't never been to school a day in my life, 'cause when I was
little, Niggers warn't 'lowed to larn to read and write. I heared Ma say
de colored preacher read out of de Bible, but I never seed him do it,
'cause I never went to church none when I was a chap. Colored folks had
deir own church in a out settlement called John De Baptist. Dat's whar
all de slaves went to meetin'. Chilluns was 'lowed to go to baptizin's.
Evvybody went to 'em. Dey tuk dem converts to a hole in de crick what
dey had got ready for dat purpose. De preacher went fust, and den he
called for de converts to come on in and have deir sins washed away.

"Our Marster sot aside a piece of ground 'long side of his own place for
his Niggers to have a graveyard. Us didn't know nothin' 'bout no
fun'rals. When one of de slaves died, dey was put in unpainted home-made
coffins and tuk to de graveyard whar de grave had done been dug. Dey put
'em in dar and kivvered 'em up and dat was all dey done 'bout it.

"Us heared a plenty 'bout patterollers beatin' up Niggers what dey
cotched off deir Marsters' plantations widout no passes. Sometimes dey
cotched one of our Marster's slaves and sometimes dey didn't, but dey
was all time on deir job.

"When slaves come in from de fields at night de 'omans cleant up deir
houses atter dey et, and den washed and got up early next mornin' to put
de clothes out to dry. Mens would eat, set 'round talkin' to other mens
and den go to bed. On our place evvybody wukked on Saddays 'til 'bout
three or four o'clock and if de wuk was tight dey wukked right on 'til
night lak any other day. Sadday nights de young folks got together to
have deir fun. Dey danced, frolicked, drunk likker, and de lak of dat.
Old Marster warn't too hard on 'em no time, but he jus' let 'em have dat
night to frolic. On Sunday he give dem what wanted 'em passes to go to
church and visit 'round.

"Christmas times, chilluns went to bed early 'cause dey was skeered
Santa Claus wouldn't come. Us carried our stockin's up to de big house
to hang 'em up. Next mornin' us found 'em full of all sorts of good
things, 'cept oranges. I never seed nary a orange 'til I was a big gal.
Miss Polly had fresh meat, cake, syrup puddin' and plenty of good sweet
butter what she 'lowanced out to her slaves at Christmas. Old Marster,
he made syrup by de barrel. Plenty of apples and nuts and groundpeas was
raised right dar on de plantation. In de Christmas, de only wuk slaves
done was jus' piddlin' 'round de house and yards, cuttin' wood, rakin'
leaves, lookin' atter de stock, waitin' on de white folks and little
chores lak dat. Hard work started again on de day atter New Year's Day.
Old Marster 'lowed 'em mighty little rest from den 'til atter de craps
was laid by.

"Course Marster let his slaves have cornshuckin's, cornshellin's, cotton
pickin's, and quiltin's. He had grove atter grove of pecan, chestnut,
walnut, hickor'nut, scalybark, and chinquapin trees. When de nuts was
all gathered, Old Marster sold 'em to de big men in de city. Dat was why
he was so rich. Atter all dese things was gathered and tended to, he
give his slaves a big feast and plenty to drink, and den he let 'em rest
up a few days 'fore dey started back to hard wuk.

"I never seed but one marriage on Old Marster's plantation, and I never
will forgit dat day. Miss Polly had done gimme one of little Miss Mary's
sho' 'nough pretty dresses and I wore it to dat weddin', only dey never
had no real weddin'. Dey was jus' married in de yard by de colored
preacher and dat was all dere was to it.

"Ma used to tell us if us didn't be-have Raw Head and Bloody Bones would
come git us and take us off. I tried to see him but I never did. Grown
folks was all time skeerin' chillun. Then us went to bed at night, us
used to see ghosties, what looked lak goats tryin' to butt us down. Ma
said I evermore used to holler out in my sleep 'bout dem things I was so
skeered of.

[HW sidenote: Home remedies]

"White folks was mighty good and kind when deir slaves got sick. Old
Marster sont for Dr. 'Pree (DuPree) and when he couldn't git him, he got
Dr. Brown. He made us swallow bitter tastin' powders what he had done
mixed up in water. Miss Polly made us drink tea made out of Jerusalem
oak weeds. She biled dem weeds and sweetened de tea wid syrup. Dat was
good for stomach trouble, and us wore elder roots strung 'round our
necks to keep off ailments.

"Mercy me! I'se seed plenty of dem yankees a-gwine and comin'. Dey come
to our Marster's house and stole his good mules. Dey tuk what dey wanted
of his meat, chickens, lard and syrup and den poured de rest of de syrup
out on de ground. Atter de war was over Niggers got so rowdy dem Ku
Kluxers come 'long to make 'em be-have deirselfs.' Dem Niggers and
Kluxers too jus' went hog wild.

"What did Niggers have to buy no land wid, when dey never had no money
paid 'em for nothin' 'til atter dey was free? Us jus' stayed on and
wukked for Old Marster, 'cause dere warn't no need to leave and go to no
other place. I was raised up for a field hand, and I ain't never wukked
in no white folks house.

"Me I'se sho' glad Mr. Lincoln sot us free. Iffen it was still slav'ry
time now old as I is, I would have to wuk jus' de same, sick or no. Now
I don't have to ax nobody what I kin do. Dat's why I'se glad I'se free.

"Now, 'bout my marriage; I was a-living in Putnam County at dat time,
and I got married up wid Green Willingham. He had come dar from Jasper
County. I didn't have no weddin'. Ma jus' cooked a chicken for us, and I
was married in a white dress. De waist had ruffles 'round de neck and
sleeves. Us had 17 chilluns in all, seven boys and 10 gals, dere was 19
grandchillun and 21 great grandchillun. Dey ain't all of 'em livin', and
my old man, he's done been daid a long time ago."

Henrietta again made her appearance and addressed her mother: "Hush your
mouth Ma, for you knows you ain't got all dem chillun. I done told de
lady you ain't got your right mind." Frances retorted: "You shut up your
mouth, Henrietta. I is so got my right mind, and I knows how many
chillun of mine dere was. One thing sho' you is got more mouth dan all
de rest of my chillun put together."

The interviewer closed her notebook and took her departure, leaving
Frances dozing in her chair.

[HW: Dist-1-2
Ex-slave #114
(Mrs. Stonestreet)]

[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

Who is the oldest ex-slave in Wilkes County? This question was answered
the other day when the quest ended on the sunny porch of a little
cottage on Lexington Road in Washington-Wilkes, for there in a straight
old-fashioned split-bottom chair sat "Aunt" Adeline Willis basking in
the warm October sunshine. She is remarkable for her age--she doesn't
know just exactly how old she is, from all she tells and what her "white
folks" say she is around a hundred. Her general health is good, she
spends her days in the open and tires only on the days she cannot be out
in her place in the sun. She has the brightest eyes, her sight is so
good she has never had to wear glasses; she gets around in the house and
yard on her cane. Her memory is excellent, only a time or two did she
slowly shake her head and say apologetically--"Mistress, it's been so
long er go, I reckon I done forgot".

From her long association with white people she uses very little Negro
dialect and always refers to her Mother as "Mother", never as Ma or
Mammy as most Negroes do. This is very noticable.

Her mother was Marina Ragan, "cause she belonged to the Ragans,"
explained Aunt Adeline, "and she was born on the Ragan Plantation right
down on Little River in Greene County" (Georgia). When Marina's "young
Mistress" married young Mr. Mose Wright of Oglethorpe County, she took
Marina to her new home to be her own servant, and there is where Adeline
was born. The place was known as the Wright Plantation and was a very
large one.

Adeline doesn't remember her father, and strange to say, she cannot
recall how many brothers and sisters she had though she tried hard to
name them all. She is sure, however, there were some older and some
younger, "I reckon I must er come along about the middle", she said.

After a little while Aunt Adeline was living far back in the past and
talked freely--with questions now and then to encourage her
reminiscences, she told many interesting things about her life as a

She told about the slaves living in the Quarters--log houses all in a
long row near the "white folks' house", and how happy they were. She
couldn't remember how many slaves were on the plantation, but was sure
there were many: "Yas'm, my Marster had lots of niggers, jest how many,
I don't know, but there sho' was a sight of us". They were given their
allowance of "rations" every week and cooked their own meals in their
cabins. They had good, plain, home-raised things to eat--"and we was
glad to get it too. We didn't have no fancy fixings, jest plain food".
Their clothes were made by Negro sewing women out of cloth spun and
woven right there in the Quarters. All the little dresses were made
alike. "When they took a notion to give us striped dresses we sho' was
dressed up. I never will forget long as I live, a hickory
stripe--(that's what they called stripes in them days)--dress they made
me, it had brass buttons at the wrist bands. I was so proud of that
dress and felt so dressed up in it I jest strutted er round with it on",
and she chuckled over the recollection of that wonderful dress she wore
so long ago.

When asked what was the very first thing she remembered, Aunt Adeline
gave a rather surprising answer: "The first thing I recollect is my love
for my Mother--I loved her so and would cry when I couldn't be with her,
and as I growed up I kept on loving her jest that a-way even after I
married and had children of my own."

The first work she did was waiting in the house. Before she could read
her mistress taught her the letters on the newspapers and what they
spelled so she could bring them the papers they wanted. Her mother
worked in the field: she drove steers and could do all kinds of farm
work and was the best meat cutter on the plantation. She was a good
spinner too, and was required to spin a broach of "wool spinning" every
night. All the Negro women had to spin, but Aunt Adeline said her mother
was specially good in spinning wool and "that kind of spinning was
powerful slow". Thinking a moment, she added: "And my mother was one of
the best dyers anywhere 'round, and I was too. I did make the most
colors by mixing up all kinds of bark and leaves. I recollect the
prettiest sort of a lilac color I made with maple bark and pine bark,
not the outside pine bark, but that little thin skin that grows right
down next to the tree--it was pretty, that color was."

Aunt Adeline thinks they were more fortunate than any other little
slaves she knew because their marster had a little store right there
where he would give them candy every now and then--bright pretty sticks
of candy. She remembers one time he gave them candy in little tin cups,
and how proud of those cups they were. He never gave them money, but out
of the store they could get what money bought so they were happy. But
they had to have whippings, "yas'um, good er bad we got them whippings
with a long cowhide kept jest fer that. They whipped us to make us grow
better, I reckon".

Although they got whippings a-plenty they were never separated by sale.
"No mam, my white folks never believed in selling their niggers", said
Aunt Adeline, and related an incident proving this. "I recollect once my
oldest brother done something Marster didn't like an' he got mighty mad
with him an' said 'Gus, I'm goin' ter sell you, I ain't a-goin' to keep
you no longer'. Mistress spoke up right quick and said: 'No you ain't
a-goin' to sell Gus, neither, he's nussed and looked after all our
oldest chillun, and he's goin' to stay right here'. And that was the
last of that, Gus was never sold--he went to war with his young Marster
when he went and died up there in the war cause he was homesick, so
Marster come back and said."

Aunt Adeline was surprised when asked if the Doctor ever was called in
to see her or any of the slaves when they were sick back in slavery
days--in fact she was a bit indignant as she answered; "_No mam_, I was
born, growed up, married, had sixteen children and never had no Doctor
with me 'til here since I got so old". She went on to say that her white
folks looked after their Negroes when they were sick.

They were given tonics and things to keep them well so sickness among
them was rare. No "store-bought" medicines, but good old home-made
remedies were used. For instance, at the first sniffle they were called
in and given a drink of fat lightwood tea, made by pouring boiling water
over finely split kindling--"that" explained Aunt Adeline, "was cause
lightwood got turpentine in it". In the Springtime there was a mixture
of anvil dust (gathered up from around the anvil in the blacksmith's
shop) and mixed with syrup, and a teaspoon full given every morning or
so to each little piccaninny as they were called up in the "white folks'
yard". Sometimes instead of this mixture they were given a dose of
garlic and whisky--all to keep them healthy and well.

There was great rejoicing over the birth of a Negro baby and the white
folks were called upon to give the little black stranger a name.

Adeline doesn't remember anything about the holidays and how they were
spent, not even Christmas and Thanksgiving, but one thing she does
remember clearly and that is: "All my white folks was Methodist folks,
and they had fast days and no work was done while they was fastin' and
prayin'. And we couldn't do no work on Sunday, no mam, everybody had to
rest on that day and on preachin' days everybody went to church, white
and black to the same church, us niggers set up in the gallery that was
built in the white folks' church for us".

There wasn't any time for play because there was so much work to do on a
big plantation, but they had good times together even if they did have
so much to do.

Before Adeline was grown her "young Mistress," Miss Mary Wright, married
Mr. William Turner from Wilkes County, so she came to the Turner
Plantation to live, and lived there until several years after the War.
Adeline hadn't been in her new home long before Lewis Willis, a young
Negro from the adjoining plantation, started coming to see her. "Lewis
come to see me any time 'cause his Marster, Mr. Willis, give him a pass
so he wasn't scared to be out at night 'count of the Patterollers. They
didn't bother a nigger if he had a pass, they sho' did beat him." [HW: ?]

When Adeline was fourteen years old she and Lewis married, or rather it
was like this: "We didn't have no preacher when we married, my Marster
and Mistess said they didn't care, and Lewis's Master and Mistress said
they didn't care, so they all met up at my white folks' house and had us
come in and told us they didn't mind our marryin'. My Marster said, 'Now
you and Lewis wants to marry and there ain't no objections so go on and
jump over the broom stick together and you is married'. That was all
there was to it and we was married. I lived on with my white folks and
he lived on with his and kept comin' to see me jest like he had done
when he was a courtin'. He never brought me any presents 'cause he
didn't have no money to buy them with, but he was good to me and that
was what counted."

Superstition and signs still have a big place in the life of this woman
even after a hundred long years. She has outlived or forgotten many she
used to believe in, but still holds fast to those she remembers. If a
rooster crows anywhere near your door somebody is coming "and you might
as well look for 'em, 'cause that rooster done told you". When a person
dies if there is a clock in the room it must be stopped the very minute
of death or it will never be any more good--if left ticking it will be
ruined. Every dark cloudy day brings death--"Somebody leaving this
unfriendly world today". Then she is sure when she "feels sadness" and
doesn't know why, it a sign somebody is dying "way off somewhere and we
don't know it". Yes, she certainly believes in all the signs she
remembers even "to this good day", as she says.

When asked about the war Aunt Adeline said that times were much harder
then: "Why we didn't have no salt--jest plain salt, and couldn't get
none them days. We had to get up the dirt in the smokehouse where the
meat had dripped and 'run it' like lye, to get salt to put on
things--yas'm, times was sho' hard and our Marster was off in war all
four years and we had to do the best we could. We niggers wouldn't know
nothing about it all if it hadn't a been for a little old black, sassy
woman in the Quarters that was a talkin' all the time about 'freedom'.
She give our white folks lots of trouble--she was so sassy to them, but
they didn't sell her and she was set free along with us. When they all
come home from the war and Marster called us up and told us we was free,
some rejoiced so they shouted, but some didn't, they was sorry. Lewis
come a runnin' over there an' wanted me and the chillun to go on over to
his white folks' place with him, an' I wouldn't go--_No mam_, I wouldn't
leave my white folks. I told Lewis to go on and let me 'lone, I knowed
my white folks and they was good to me, but I didn't know his white
folks. So we kept living like we did in slavery, but he come to see me
every day. After a few years he finally 'suaded me to go on over to the
Willis place and live with him, and his white folks was powerful good to
me. After a while, tho' we all went back and lived with my white folks
and I worked on for them as long as I was able to work and always felt
like I belonged to 'em, and you know, after all this long time, I feel
like I am their's."

"Why I live so long, you asking? 'Cause I always been careful and took
good care of myself, eat a plenty and stayed out in the good fresh open
air and sunshine when I could--and then I had a good husband that took
care of me." This last reason for her long life was added as an after
thought and since Lewis, her husband, has been dead these forty years
maybe those first named causes were the real ones. Be that as it may,
Aunt Adeline is a very remarkable old woman and is most interesting to
talk with.

Supervisor: Miss Velma Bell

[Date Stamp: APR 8 1937]

[TR: Also in combined interviews as Willis Bennefield.]

"Uncle Willis" lived with his daughter, Rena, who is 74 years old. "I
his baby," said Rena. "All dead but me and I ain't no good for him now,
'cause I kain't tote nothin'."

When asked where her father was, Rena looked out over the blazing cotton
field and called:

"Pap! Oh--pappy! Stop pickin' cotton and come in awhile. Dey's some
ladies wants to see you."

Uncle Willis hobbled slowly to the cabin, which was set in the middle of
the cotton patch. He wore clean blue overalls, obviously new. His small,
regular features had high cheekbones. There was a tuft of white hair on
his chin, and his head was covered with a "sundown" hat.

"Mawnin," he said. "I bin sick. So I thought I might git some cotton

Willis thinks he is 101 years old. He said: "I was 35 years old when
freedom declared." He belonged to a doctor in Burke County, who, Willis
at first said, had three or four plantations. Later he stated that the
good doctor had five or six places, all in Burke County.

"I wuk in de fiel'," he went on: "and I drove de doctor thirty years. He
owned 300 slaves. I never went to school a day in my life, 'cept Sunday
school, but I tuk de doctor's sons four miles ev'y day to school. Guess
he had so much business in hand he thought de chillun could walk. I used
to sit down on de school steps 'till dey turn out. I got way up de
alphabet by listenin', but when I went to courtin' I forgot all dat."

Asked what his regular duties were, Willis answered with pride:

"Marster had a ca'yage and a buggy too. My father driv' de doctor.
Sometimes I was fixin' to go to bed, and had to hitch up my horse and go
five or six mile. I had a regular saddle horse, two pair of horses for
ca'yage. Doctor were a rich man. Richest man in Burke County. He made
his money on his farm. When summertime come, I went wid him to Bath,
wheh he had a house on Tena Hill. We driv' down in de ca'yage. Sundays
we went to church when Dr. Goulding preach. De darkies went in de side
do'. I hear him preach many times."

Asked about living conditions on the plantation, Willis replied:

"De big house was set in a half acre yard. 'Bout fifty yards on one side
was my house, and fifty yards on de yudder side was de house o' Granny,
a woman what tended de chillun and had charge o'de yard when we went to
Bath." Willis gestured behind him. "Back yonder was de quarters, half a
mile long; dey wuz one room 'crost, and some had shed room. When any of
'em got sick, Marster would go round to see 'em all."

As to church, Willis said:

"I belongst to Hopeful Church. Church people would have singin' and
prayin' and de wicked people would have dancin' and singin'." Willis
chuckled. "At dat time I wuz a regular dancer! I cut de pigeon wing high
enough! Not many cullud peoples know de Bible in slavery time. We had
dances, and prayers, and sing, too. We sang a song, 'On Jordan's stormy
banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye.'"

"How about marriages?" Willis was asked.

"Colored preacher marry 'em. You had to get license and give it to de
preacher and he marry 'em. When de men on our plantation had wives on
udder plantations, dey call 'em broad wives."

"Did you give your wife presents when you were courting?" he was asked.

"I went to courtin' and never give her nuthin' till I marry her."

As to punishments, Willis said that slaves were whipped as they needed
it, and as a general rule the overseer did the whipping.

"When derky wouldn't take whippin' from de overseer," he said, "he had
to ca'y dem to de boss; and if we needed any brushin' de marster brush
'em. Why, de darkies would whip de overseer!"

Willis was asked to describe how slaves earned money for personal use,
and replied:

"Dey made dey own money. In slavery time, if you wanted four-five acre
of land to plant you anything on, marster give it to you and whatever
dat land make, it belong to you. You could take dat money and spend it
any way you wanted. Still he give you somethin' to eat and clothe you,
but dat patch you mek cotton on, sometimes a whole bale, dat money

Willis thought the plantation house was still there, "but it badly
wounded," he said. "Dey tell me dere ain't nobuddy living in it now. It
south of Waynesboro."

"When de soldiers come thoo'," continued Willis, "dey didn't burn dat
place, but dey went in dere and took out ev'yting dey want and give it
to de cullud people. Dey kep' it till dey got free. De soldiers tuk de
doctor's horses and ca'y 'em off. Got in de crib and tek de corn. Got in
de smoke 'ouse and tek de meat out. Old Marssa bury his money and silver
in an iron chist. Dey tuk it 300 yards away to a clump o' trees and bury
it. It tuk fo' men to ca'y it. Dere was money widout mention in dat
chist! After de soldiers pass thoo' dey went down and got it back."

"What did you do after freedom was declared?"

Willis straightened up.

"I went down to Augusta to de Freedman's Bureau to see if twas true we
wuz free. I reckon dere was over a hundred people dere. De man got up
and stated to de people: 'You all is jus' as free as I am. You ain't got
no mistis and no marster. Work when you want.' On Sunday morning Old
Marster sont de house gal and tell us to all come to de house. He said:

'What I want to send for you all is to tell you dat you are free. You
hab de privilege to go anywheh you want, but I don't want none o' you to
leave me now. I wants you-all to stay right wid me. If you stay, you
mus' sign to it.'

I asked him:

'What you want me to sign for? I is free.'

'Dat will hold me to my word and hold you to yo' word,' he say.

"All my folks sign it, but I wouldn't sign. Marster call me up and say:
'Willis, why wouldn't you sign?' I say: 'If I is already free, I don't
need to sign no paper. If I was workin' for you and doin' for you befo'
I got free, I kin do it still, if you wants me to stay wid you.'

"My father and mother tried to git me to sign, but I wouldn't sign. My
mother said: 'You oughter sign. How you know Marster gwine pay?' I say:
'Den I kin go somewheh else.'

"Marster pay first class hands $15.00 a month, other hands $10.00, and
den on down to five and six dollars. He give rations like dey always
have. When Christmus' come, all come up to be paid off. Den he calls me.
Ask whar is me? I was standin' roun' de corner of de house. 'Come up
here, Willis,' he say. 'You didn't sign dat paper but I reckon I hab to
pay you too.' He paid me and my wife $180.00. I said: 'Well, you-all
thought he wouldn't pay me, but I got my money too.'

"I stayed to my marster's place one year after de war, den I lef' dere.
Nex' year I decided I would quit dere and go somewheh else. It was on
account o' my wife. You see, Marster bought her off, as de highes'
bidder, down in Waynesboro, and she ain't seen her mother and father for
fifteen years. When she got free, she went down to see 'em. Waren't
willin' to come back. T'was on account o' Mistis and her. Dey bofe had
chilluns, five-six year old. De chilluns had disagreement. Mistis slap
my gal. My wife sass de Mistis. But my marster, he wuz as good a man as
ever born. I wouldn't have lef' him for nobody, just on account of his
wife and her fell out."

"What did your master say when you told him you were going to leave? Was
he sorry?"

"I quit and goes over three miles to another widow lady's house, and mek
bargain wid her," said Willis. "I pass right by de do'. Old boss sittin'
on de pi--za. He say: 'Hey, boy, wheh you gwine?' I say: 'I 'cided to
go.' I wuz de fo'man' o' de plow-han' den. I saw to all de looking up,
and things like dat. He say: 'Hold on dere.' He come out to de gate.
'tell you what I give you to stay on here. I give you five acre of as
good land as I got, and $30.00 a month, to stay here and see to my

Willis paused a moment, thinking back on that long distant parting.

"I say," he went on, "'I can't, marster. It don't suit my wife 'round
here. She won't come back. I can't stay.'

"He turn on me den, and busted out crying. 'I didn't tho't I could raise
up a darky dat would talk dat-a-way,' he said. Well, I went on off. I
got de wagon and come by de house. Marster say: 'Now, you gwine off but
don't forget me, boy. Remember me as you always done.' I said: 'All

Willis chewed his tobacco reflectively for a few minutes, spat into the
rosemary bush and resumed his story.

"I went over to dat widow lady's house and work. Along about May I got
sick. She say: 'I going send for de doctor.' I say: 'Please ma'am, don't
do dat.' (I thought maybe he kill me 'cause I lef' him.) She say: 'Well,
I gwine send fo' him.' I in desprut condition. When I know anything, he
walk up in de do'. I was laying' wid my face toward de do', and I turn

"Doctor come up to de bed. 'Boy, how you gettin' on?' 'I bad off,' I
say. He say: 'see you is. Yeh.' Lady say: 'Doctor, whut you think of
him?' Doctor say: 'Mistis, it mos' too late, but I do all I kin.' She
say: 'Please do all you kin, he 'bout de bes' han' I got.'

"Doctor fix up med'cine and tole her to give it to me.

"She say: 'Uncle Will, tek dis med'cine. I 'fraid to tek it. 'Fraid he
wuz tryin' to kill me. Den two men, John and Charlie, come in. Lady say:
'Get dis med'cine in Uncle Will.' One o' de men hold my hand and dey gag
me and put it in me. Nex' few days I kin talk and ax for somethin' to
eat so I git better. (I say: "Well, he didn't kill me when I tuk de

"I stayed dere wid her," continued Willis. "Nex' year I move right back
in two miles, other side wheh I always live, wid anudder lady. I stay
dere three year. Got along all right. When I lef' from there, I lef'
dere wid $300.00 and plenty corn and hog. Everything I want, and three
hundred cash dollars in my pocket!"

It was plain that in his present status of relief ward, Uncle Willis
looked back on that sum of money as a small fortune. He thought about it
awhile, spat again, and went on:

"Fourth year I lef and went down to anudder place near de Creek. I stay
dere 33 years in dat one place."

"Uncle Willis, did you ever see the doctor again?"

"He die 'fore I know it," he replied. "I was 'bout fifteen miles from
him, and by de time I year o' his death, he bury on plantation near de

Willis was asked about superstitions and answered with great

"Eve'ybuddy in de worl' hab got a sperrit what follow 'em roun' and dey
kin see diffrunt things. In my sleep I hab vision."

"Pappy, tell de ladies 'bout de hant," urged Aunt Rena from her post in
the doorway, and Willis took up the story with eagerness:

"One night I was gwine to a lady's store, ridin' a horse. De graveyard
was 100 yards from de road I wuz passin'. De moon was shinin' bright as
day. I saw somethin' comin' out of dat graveyard. It come across de
road, right befo' me. His tail were draggin' on de ground--a long tail.
He had hair on both sides of him, layin' down on de road. He crep' up. I
pull de horse dis way. He move too. I yell out: 'What in de name o' God
is dat?' And it turn right straight around and went back to de
graveyard. I went on to de lady's house and done my shoppin'. I tell you
I wuz skeered, 'cause I was sho' I would see it going back, but I never
saw it. De horse was turrible skeered of it. It looked like a Maryno
sheep and it had a long, swishy tail."

Uncle Willis was asked if he had ever seen a person "conjured" and he

"Dey is people in de worl' got sense enough to kill out de conjur in
anybuddy, but nobuddy ever conjur me. I year 'um say, if a person conjur
you, you'll git somethin' in you dat would kill you."

Asked to what he attributed his long, healthy life, Willis raised his
head with a preaching look and replied:

"I tell you, Missis, 'zactly what I believe, I bin tryin' to serve God
ever since I come to be a man of family. I bin tryin' to serve de Lawd
79 years, and I live by precept of de word. Until today nobuddy can turn
me away from God business. I am a man studying my gospel, I ain't able
to go to church, but I still keep serving God."

[TR: Return visit]

A week later Uncle Willis was found standing in his cabin door.

"Do you want to ride to the old plantation to-day?" he was asked. His
vitality was almost too low for him to grasp the invitation.

"I'se mighty weak to-day," he said in a feeble voice. "I don't feel good
for much."

"Where is Aunt Rena?" he was asked. "Do you think she would mind your
taking an automobile trip?"

"She gone to town on de bus, to see de Fambly Welfare."

"Have you had breakfast?"

"I had some coffee, but I ain't eat none."

"Well, come on, Uncle Willis. We'll get you some breakfast and then
we'll take you to the plantation and take your picture in the place
where you were born, 101 years ago."

Uncle Willis appeared to be somewhat in a daze as he padlocked the cabin
door, put on his "sundown" hat, took up his stout stick and tottered
down the steps. He wore a frayed sweater with several layers of shirts
showing at the cuffs. On the way he recalled the first railroad train
that passed through Burke County.

"I kinder skeered," he recollected. "We wuz all 'mazed to see dat train
flying' long 'thout any horses. De people wuz all afraid."

"Had you heard of airplanes before you saw one, Uncle Willis?"

"Yes, ma'am. I yeared o' dem but you couldn't gimme dis car full o'
money to fly. Dey's too high off de ground. I never is gwine in one!"

Uncle Willis was deposited on the porch of one of the remaining slave
cabins to eat his "breakkus," while his kidnapers sought over hill and
field for "The big house," but only two cabins and the chimney
foundations of a large burned dwelling rewarded the search.

The old ex-slave was posed in front of the cabin, to one side of the
clay and brick chimney, and took great pleasure in the ceremony, rearing
his head up straight so that his white beard stuck out.

The brutal reality of finding the glories of the plantation forever
vanished must have been a severe blow for the old man. Several times on
the way back he wiped tears from his eyes. Once again at his cabin in
the cottonfield, his vitality reasserted itself, and he greeted his
curious dusky neighbors with the proud statement.

"Dey tuk me when I was bred and born! I ain't ax no better time!"

Willis' farewell words were:

"Goo'bye! I hopes you all gits to Paradise!"

[HW: Dist 1-2
Ex-Slave #116]


Richmond County
1341 Ninth Street
Augusta, Georgia

BY: (Mrs.) Margaret Johnson--Editor
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia
[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

Cornelia Winfield, 1341 Ninth Street, was born in Crawford, Oglethorpe
County, Georgia March 10, 1855. Her father, being the same age as her
master, was given to him as a little boy. They grew up together, playing
games, and becoming devoted to each other. When her master was married
her father went to his home with him and became the overseer of all the
slaves on the plantation. "My father and mother wuz house servants. My
marster served my father's plate from his own table and sent it to him,
every meal. He had charge of the work shop, and when marster was away he
always stayed at the Big House, to take care of my Missis and the
children. My mother was a seamstress and had three younger seamsters
under her, that she taught to sew. We made the clothes for all the house
servants and fiel' hans. My mother made some of the clothes for my
marster and missis. My mother was a midwife too, and useter go to all
the birthings on our place. She had a bag she always carried and when
she went to other plantations she had a horse and buggy to go in.

"All the slaves on our place wuz treated well. I never heard of any of
'em bein' whipped. I was ten years old when freedom come, and I always
knowed I wuz to belong to one of marster's daughters. After freedom my
father and mother worked on just the same for marster. When my father
died, marster's fam'ly wanted him buried in the fam'ly lot but I wanted
him to lie by my mother."

Cornelia's husband was a Methodist preacher, and she lived with him to
celebrate their Golden Wedding. During the last years of his life they
lived in Augusta. For sixteen years she washed all the blankets for the
Fire Department, and did some of the washing for the firemen. Cornelia
is now 82 years of age, but her memory is good and her mind active; and
she is extremely loquacious. She is quite heavy, and crippled, having to
use a crutch when she walks. Her room was clean, but over-crowded with
furniture, every piece of which has recently been painted. Of the
wardrobe in her room Cornelia told the following story. "All the planks
eny of our family was laid out on, my father kep'. When he came to
Augusta he brought all these planks and made this here wardrobe. When
the fire burnt me out, this here wardrobe was the only thing in my house
that was saved."

During the past summer she put up quantities of preserves, pickles and
canned fruits. These she sells in a little shop-room adjoining her
house, and when the weather permits, on the steps of the Post Office.

Cornelia can read, and spends much of time reading the Bible but she
learned to read after "Freedom." She is greatly interested to tell of
the "best families" she has worked for and the gifts she has received
from them.

[HW: Dist. 5
Ex-Slave #117]
E. Driskell

[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

One of the relics of Slavery is George Womble. From all appearances Mr.
Womble looks to be fifty-three years of age instead of the ripe old age
of ninety-three that he claims. He is about five and one-half or six
feet in height, weighs one-hundred and seventy-five pounds or more, and
has good sight and hearing in addition to a skin that is almost devoid
of any wrinkle. Besides all of this he is a clear thinker and has a good
sense of humor. Following is an account of the experiences of Mr. Womble
as a slave and of the conditions in general on the plantations where he

"I was born in the year of 1843 near the present site of what is now
known as Clinton, Georgia. The names of my parents were Patsy and
Raleigh Ridley. I never saw my father as he was sold before I was old
enough to recognize him as being my father. I was still quite young when
my mother was sold to a plantation owner who lived in New Orleans, La.
As she was being put on the wagon to be taken away I heard her say: "Let
me see my poor child one more time because I know I'll never see him
again". That was the last I ever saw or heard of her. As I had no
brothers or sisters or any other relatives to care for me my master, who
was Mr. Robert Ridley, had me placed in his house where I was taught to
wait tables and to do all kinds of house work. Mr. Ridley had a very
large plantation and he raised cotton, corn, oats, wheat, peas, and live
stock. Horses and mules were his specialty--I remember that he had one
little boy whose job was to break these animals so that they could be
easily sold. My job was to wait tables, help with the house cleaning,
and to act as nurse maid to three young children belonging to the
master. At other times I drove the cows to and from the pasture and I
often helped with the planting in the fields when the field hands were
rushed. Out of the forty-odd slaves that were held by the Ridleys all
worked in the field with the exception of myself and the cook whose name
was Harriet Ridley." Continuing, Mr. Womble says: "I believe that Mr.
Ridley was one of the meanest men that ever lived. Sometimes he whipped
us, especially us boys, just to give himself a little fun. He would tie
us in such a way as to cause our bodies to form an angle and then he
preceeded to use the whip. When he had finished he would ask: "Who do
you belong to?" and we had to answer; "Marse Robert". At other times he
would throw us in a large tank that held about two-thousand gallons of
water. He then stood back and laughed while we struggled to keep from

"When Marse Robert died I was still a small boy. Several months after
his death Mrs. Ridley gave the plantation up and took her share of the
slaves (ten in number) of which I was one, and moved to Tolbert County,
Georgia near the present location of Talbottom, Georgia. The other
slaves and the plantation were turned over to Marse Robert's relatives.
After a few months stay in this place I was sold to Mrs. Ridley's
brother, Enoch Womble. On the day that I was sold three doctors examined
me and I heard one of them say: "This is a thoroughbred boy. His teeth
are good and he has good muscles and eyes. He'll live a long time." Then
Mr. Womble said: "He looks intelligent too. I think I'll take him and
make a blacksmith out of him." And so to close the deal he paid his
sister five-hundred dollars for me."

According to Mr. Womble his new master was even meaner than the deceased
Mr. Ridley. He was likewise a plantation owner and a farmer and as such
he raised the same things that Mr. Ridley did with the exception of the
horses and the mules. In all there were about five-hundred acres to the
plantation. There were six children in the Womble family in addition to
Mr. Womble and his wife, and they all lived in a large one-storied frame
house. A large hickory tree grew through the center of the porch where a
hole had been cut out for its growth.

Mr. Womble says that his reputation of being an excellent house boy had
preceded him, and so here too he was put to work in the master's house
where he helped with the cooking, washed the dishes, cleaned the house,
and also acted as nurse for the younger white children. In addition to
this, he was also required to attend to the cows. He remembers how on
one night at a very late hour he was called by the master to go and
drive the cows from the pasture as the sleet and snow might do them more
harm than good. He was so cold that on the way back from the pasture he
stopped at the pig pens where he pushed one or two of them out of the
spots where they had lain so that he could squat there, and warm his
feet in the places left warm by their bodies. To add to his discomfort
the snow and sleet froze in his long hair and this made him even more
miserable than ever.

Mr. Womble was asked to tell what time he had to arise in the morning to
be at his day's work, and he replied that sometimes he didn't even go to
sleep as he had to keep one hand on the baby crib to keep it from
crying. Most of the time he got up at four o'clock in the morning, and
went to the kitchen where he helped the cook prepare breakfast. After
this was done, and he had finished waiting on the master and his family
he started to clean the house. When he had finished this, he had to take
care of the younger Womble children, and do countless the other things
to be done around a house. Of the other slaves, Mr. Womble says: "None
of them ever suffered from that disease known as "mattress fever". They
all got up long before day, and prepared their breakfasts and then
before it was light enough to see clearly they were standing in the
field holding their hoes and other implements--afraid to start work for
fear that they would cover the cotton plants with dirt because they
could'nt see clearly due to the darkness." An overseer was hired by the
master to see that the work was done properly. If any of the slaves were
careless about their work they were made to take off their clothes in
the field before all the rest and then a sound whipping was
administered. Field hands also get whippings when they failed to pick
the required three-hundred pounds of cotton daily. To avoid a whipping
for this they sprinkled the white sand of the fields on the dew soaked
cotton and at the time it was weighed they were credited with more
pounds than they had actually picked. Around ten or eleven o'clock in
the morning they were all allowed to go to the cook house where they
were given dinner by the plantation cook. By one o'clock they were all
back in the field where they remained until it was too dark to see
clearly, and then they were dismissed by the overseer after he had
checked the number of pounds of cotton that they had picked.

The slaves knew that whenever Mr. Womble hired a new overseer he always
told the prospect that if he could'nt handle the slaves his services
would not be needed. The cook had heard the master tell a prospective
overseer this and so whenever a new one was hired the slaves were quick
to see how far they could go with him. Mr. Womble says that an overseer
had to be a very capable man in order to keep his job as overseer on the
Womble plantation because if the slaves found out that he was afraid of
them fighting him (and they did sometimes) they took advantage of him so
much so that the production dropped and the overseer either found
himself trying to explain to his employer or else looking for another
job. The master would never punish a slave for beating an overseer with
his fists stated Mr. Womble.

During rainy weather the slaves shucked corn, piled manure in the barns,
and made cloth. In the winter season the men split rails, built fences,
and dug ditches, while the women did the weaving and the making of
cloth. These slaves who were too old to work in the fields remained at
home where they nursed the sick slaves (when there was sickness) and
attended to the needs of those children who were too young for field
work. Those children who were still being fed from their mother's
breasts were also under the care of one of these old persons. However,
in this case the mothers were permitted to leave the field twice a day
(once between breakfast and dinner and once between dinner and supper)
so that these children could be fed.

At times Mr. Womble hired some of his slaves out to work by the day for
some of the other nearby plantation owners. Mr. Geo. Womble says that he
was often hired out to the other white ladies of the community to take
care of their children and to do their housework. Because of his ability
to clean a house and to handle children he was in constant demand.

The men worked every day in the week while the women were given Saturday
afternoon off so that they might do their personal work such as the
washing and the repairing of their clothing etc. The women were required
to do the washing and the repairing of the single men's clothing in
addition to their own. No night work was required of any of them except
during the winter when they were given three cuts of thread to card,
reel, and spin each night.

There were some days when the master called them all to his back yard
and told them that they could have a frolic. While they danced and sang
the master and his family sat and looked on. On days like the Fourth of
July and Christmas in addition to the frolic barbecue was served and
says Mr. Womble: "It was right funny to see all of them dancing around
the yard with a piece of meat in one hand and a piece of bread in the

Mr. Womble stated further that clothes were given to all the slaves once
a year. An issue for the men usually consisted of one or two pairs of
pants and some shirts, underwear, woolen socks, and a pair of heavy
brogans that had been made of horse hide. These shoes were reddish in
appearance and were as stiff as board according to Mr. Womble. For
special wear the men were given a garment that was made into one piece
by sewing the pants and shirt together. This was known as a
"roundabout". The women were given one or two dresses that had been made
of the same material as that of the men's pants. As the cloth that these
clothes were made of was very coarse and heavy most of them lasted until
the time for the next issue. None of the clothing that the slaves wore
was bought. After the cloth had been made by the slaves who did all the
spinning and the weaving the master's wife cut the clothes out while the
slave women did the sewing. One of the men was a cobbler and it was he
who made all of the shoes for slave use. In the summer months the field
hands worked in their bare feet regardless of whether they had shoes or
not. Mr. Womble says that he was fifteen years of age when he was given
his first pair of shoes. They were a pair of red boots and were so stiff
that he needed help to get them on his feet as well as to get them off.
Once when the master had suffered some few financial losses the slaves
had to wear clothes that were made of crocus material. The children wore
sacks after holes had been cut out for their heads and arms. This
garment looked like a slightly lengthened shirt in appearance. A dye
made from red clay was used to give color to these clothes.

The bed clothing consisted of bagging sacks and quilts that were made
out of old clothes.

At the end of the week all the field hands met in the master's backyard
where they were given a certain amount of food which was supposedly
enough to last for a week. Such an issue was made up of three pounds of
fat meat, one peck of meal, and one quart of black molasses. Mr. Womble
was asked what the slaves did if their allowance of food ran out before
the end of the week, and he replied in the following manner: "If their
food gave out before the time for another issue they waited until night
and then one or two of them would go to the mill-house where the flour
and the meal was kept. After they had succeeded in getting in they would
take an auger and bore a hole in the barrel containing the meal. One
held the sack while the other took a stick and worked it around in the
opening made by the auger so as to make the meal flow freely. After
their bags were filled the hole was stopped up, and a hasty departure
was made. Sometimes when they wanted meat they either went to the smoke
house and stole a ham or else they would go to the pen where the pigs
were kept and take a small pig out. When they got to the woods with this
animal they proceeded to skin and clean it (it had already been killed
with a blow in the head before they left the pen). All the parts that
they did not want were either buried or thrown in the nearby river.
After going home all of this meat was cooked and hidden. As there was
danger in being caught none of this stolen meat was ever fried because
there was more danger of the odor of frying meat going farther away than
that odor made by meat being boiled." At this point Mr. Womble stated
that the slaves were taught to steal by their masters. Sometimes they
were sent to the nearby plantations to steal chickens, pigs, and other
things that could be carried away easily. At such times the master would
tell them that he was not going to mistreat them and that he was not
going to allow anyone else to mistreat them and that by taking the above
mentioned things they were helping him to be more able to take care of

At breakfast the field hands ate fried meat, corn bread, and molasses.
When they went to the house for dinner they were given some kind of
vegetable along with pot liquor and milk. When the days work was done
and it was time for the evening meal there was the fried meat again with
the molasses and the corn bread. Mr. Womble says that they ate this kind
of food every day in the week. The only variation was on Sunday when
they were given the seconds of the flour and a little more molasses so
that they might make a cake. No other sweetening was used except the

As for Mr. Womble and the cook they fared better as they ate the same
kind of food that the master and his family did. He remembers how he
used to take biscuits from the dishes that were being sent to the
masters table. He was the waiter and this was an easy matter. Later he
took some of these biscuits and sold them to the other little boys for a
nickle each. Neither the master or the slaves had real coffee. They all
drank a type of this beverage that had been made by parching bran or
meal and then boiled in water.

The younger children were fed from a trough that was twenty feet in
length. At meal time each day the master would come out and supervise
the cook whose duty it was to fill the trough with food. For breakfast
the milk and bread was all mixed together in the trough by the master
who used his walking cane to stir it with. At dinner and supper the
children were fed pot liquor and bread and sometimes milk that had been
mixed together in the same manner. All stood back until the master had
finished stirring the food and then at a given signal they dashed to the
trough where they began eating with their hands. Some even put their
mouths in the trough and ate. There were times when the master's dogs
and some of the pigs that ran round the yard all came to the trough to
share these meals. Mr. Womble states that they were not permitted to
strike any of these animals so as to drive them away and so they
protected their faces from the tongues of the intruders by placing their
hands on the sides of their faces as they ate. During the meal the
master walked from one end of the trough to the other to see that all
was as it should be. Before Mr. Womble started to work in the master's
house he ate as the other children for a short time. Some of the times
he did not have enough food to eat and so when the time came to feed the
cows he took a part of their food (a mixture of cotton seed, collard
stalks, and small ears of corn) and ate it when night came. When he
started working in the house regularly he always had sufficient food
from then on.

All the food that was eaten was grown on the plantation in the master's
gardens. He did not permit the slaves to have a garden of their own
neither could they raise their own chickens and so the only time that
they got the chance to enjoy the eating of chicken was when they decided
to make a special trip to the master's poultry yard.

The housing facilities varied with the work a slave was engaged in on
the Womble plantation according to Mr. Womble. He slept in the house
under the dining-room table all of the time. The cook also slept in the
house of her owner. For those who worked on the fields log cabins (some
distance behind the master's house.) were provide [sic]. Asked to
describe one of these cabins Mr. Womble replied: "They were two roomed
buildings made out of logs and daubed with mud to keep the weather out.
At one end there was a chimney that was made out of dried mud, sticks
and stones. The fireplace was about five or six feet in length and on
the inside of it there were some hooks to hang the pots from when there
was cooking to be done.

"There was only one door and this was the front one. They would'nt put a
back door in a cabin because it would be easy for a slave to slip out of
the back way if the master or the overseer came to punish an occupant.
There were one or two small openings cut in the back so that they could
get air."

"The furniture was made by the blacksmith", continued Mr. Womble. "In
one corner of the room there was a large bed that had been made out of
heavy wood. Rope that ran from side to side served as the springs while
the mattress was a large bag that had been stuffed with wheat straw. The
only other furnishings were a few cooking utensils and one or two
benches." As many as four families lived in one of these cabins although
the usual number to a cabin was three families. There was one other
house where the young children were kept while their parents worked in
the fields.

Most of the sickness on the Womble plantation was due to colds and
fever. For the treatment of either of these ailments the master always
kept a large can filled with a mixture of turpentine and caster oil.
When anyone complained of a cold a dose of this oil was prescribed. The
master gave this dose from a very large spoon that always hung from the
can. The slaves also had their own home made remedies for the treatment
of different ailments. Yellow root tea and black-hall tea were used in
the treatment of colds while willow tea was used in the treatment of
fever. Another tea made from the droppings of sheep was used as a remedy
for the measles. A doctor was always called when anyone was seriously
ill. He was always called to attend those cases of childbirth. Unless a
slave was too sick to walk he was required to go to the field and work
like the others. If, however, he was confined to his bed a nurse was
provided to attend to his needs.

On Sundays all of the slaves were allowed to attend the white church
where they listened to the services from the rear of the church. When
the white minister was almost through he would walk back to where the
slaves sat and tell them not to steal their master's chickens, eggs, or
his hogs and their backs would not be whipped with many stripes. After
this they were dismissed and they all left the church wondering what the
preacher's sermon meant. Some nights they went to the woods and
conducted their own services. At a certain spot they all knelt and
turned their faces toward the ground and then they began moaning and
praying. Mr. Womble says that by huddling in this circle and turning
their voices toward the ground the sound would not travel very far.

None of them ever had the chance to learn how to read and write. Some
times the young boys who carried the master's children's books to and
from school would ask these children to teach them to write but as they
were afraid of what their father might do they always refused. On the
adjoining plantation the owner caught his son teaching a little slave
boy to write.

He was furious and after giving his son a severe beating he then cut the
thumb and forefinger off of the slave. The only things that were taught
the slaves was the use of their hands. Mr. Womble says that all the
while that he was working in the master's house they still found the
time for him to learn to be a blacksmith.

When a male slave reached the age of twenty-one he was allowed to court.
The same was true of a girl that had reached the age of eighteen. If a
couple wished to marry they had to get permission from the master who
asked each in turn if they wished to be joined as man and wife and if
both answered that they did they were taken into the master's house
where the ceremony was performed. Mr. Womble says that he has actually
seen one of these weddings and that it was conducted in the following
manner: "A broom was placed in the center of the floor and the couple
was told to hold hands. After joining hands they were commanded to jump
over the broom and then to turn around and jump back.

"After this they were pronounced man and wife." A man who was small in
stature was never allowed to marry a large, robust woman. Sometimes when
the male slaves on one plantation were large and healthy looking and the
women slaves on some nearby plantation looked like they might be good
breeders the two owners agreed to allow the men belonging to the one
visit the women belonging to the other, in fact they encouraged this
sort of thing in hopes that they would marry and produce big healthy
children. In such cases passes were given freely.

All of the newly born babies were named by the master. "The only
baptisms that any of us get was with a stick over the head and then we
baptised our cheeks with our tears," stated Mr. Wombly.

Continuing, Mr. Wombly stated that the slaves on the Womble plantation
were treated more like animals rather than like humans. On one or two
occasions some of them were sold. At such a time those to be sold were
put in a large pen and then they were examined by the doctors and
prospective buyers and later sold to the highest bidder the same as a
horse or a mule. They were sold for various reasons says Mr. Womble. His
mother was sold because she was too hard to rule and because she made it
difficult to discipline the other slaves.

Mr. Womble further reported that most of his fellow slaves believed in
signs. They believed that if a screech owl or a "hoot" owl came near a
house and made noises at night somebody was going to die and instead of
going to heaven the devil would get them. "On the night that old Marse
Ridley died the screech owls like to have taken the house away," he

There was always a great amount of whipping on this plantation. This was
practically the only form of punishment used. Most of them were whipped
for being disobedient or for being unruly. Mr. Womble has heard his
master say that he would not have a slave that he could not rule and to
be sure that the slaves held him and his family in awe he even went so
far as to make all of them go and pay their respects to the newly born
white children on the day after their birth. At such a time they were
required to get in line outside of the door and then one by one they
went through the room and bowed their heads as they passed the bed and
uttered the following words: "Young Marster" or if the baby was a girl
they said: "Young Mistress". On one occasion Mr. Womble says that he has
seen his master and a group of other white men beat an unruly slave
until his back was raw and then a red hot iron bar was applied to his
back. Even this did not make the slave submissive because he ran away
immediately afterwards. After this inhuman treatment any number of the
slaves ran away, especially on the Ridley plantation. Some were caught
and some were not. One of the slaves on the Womble plantation took his
wife and ran away. He and his wife lived in a cave that they found in
the woods and there they raised a family. When freedom was declared and
these children saw the light of day for the first time they almost went
blind stated Mr. Womble.

Mr. Womble says that he himself has been whipped to such an extent by
his master, who used a walking cane, that he had no feeling in his legs.
One other time he was sent off by the master and instead of returning
immediately he stopped to eat some persimmons. The master came upon him
at the tree and started beating him on the head with a wagon spoke. By
the time he reached the house his head was covered with knots the size
of hen eggs and blood was flowing from each of them.

The slaves on the Womble plantation seldom if ever came in contact with
the "Paddle-Rollers" who punished those slaves who had the misfortune to
be caught off of their plantations without passes. In those days the
jails were built for the white folks because the masters always punished
the slaves when they broke any of the laws exclaimed Mr. Womble.

Several years before the war Mr. Wombly was sold to Mr. Jim Wombly, the
son of Mr. Enoch Wombly. He was as mean as his father or meaner, Mr.
Wombly says that the first thing that he remembers in regard to the war
was to hear his master say that he was going to join the army and bring
Abe Lincoln's head back for a soap dish. He also said that he would wade
in blood up to his neck to keep the slaves from being freed. The slaves
would go to the woods at night where they sang and prayed. Some used to
say; "I knew that some day we'll be free and if we die before that time
our children will live to see it."

When the Yankees marched through they took all of the silver and gold
that had been hidden in the wall on the Womble plantation. They also
took all of the live stock on the plantation, most of which had been
hidden in the swamps. These soldiers then went into the house and tore
the beds up and poured syrup in the mattresses. At the time all of the
white people who lived on the plantation were hiding in the woods. After
the soldiers had departed (taking these slaves along who wished to
follow) Mrs. Womble went back into the house and continued to make the
clothes and the bandages that were to be used by the Confederate

After the slaves were set free any number of them were bound over and
kept, says Mr. Womble. He himself was to remain with the Womble family
until he reached the age of twenty-one. When this time came Mr. Womble
refused to let him go. However, Mrs. Womble helped him to escape but he
was soon caught one night at the home of an elderly white lady who had
befriended him. A rope was tied around his neck and he was made to run
the entire way back to the plantation while the others rode on horse
back. After a few more months of cruel treatment he ran away again. This
time he was successful in his escape and after he had gone what he
considered a safe distance he set up a blacksmith shop where he made a
living for quite a few years. Later one of the white men in that
community hired him to work in his store. After a number of years at
this place he decided to come to Atlanta where he has been since.

Mr. Womble concluded by saying that he has been able to reach his
present age because he has never done any smoking or drinking. An old
lady once told him not to use soap on his face and he would not wrinkle.
He accounts for his smooth skin in this manner.

[HW: Dist. 5
Ex. Slave #118
E. Driskell]


In Atlanta among that ever decreasing group of persons known as
ex-slaves there is an old Negro man named Henry Wright. Although Mr.
Wright is 99 years of age his appearance is that of a much younger man.
He is about 5 feet in height; his dark skin is almost free of wrinkles
and his head is thickly covered with gray hair. His speech and thought
indicate that he is very intelligent and there is no doubt that he still
possesses a clear and active mind.

As he noisily puffed on a battered old pipe he related the following
tale of his experiences in slavery and of conditions in general as he
saw them at that time.

Mr. Wright was born on the plantation of Mr. Phil House. This plantation
was located near the present site of Buckhead, Ga. His parents were
Henry Wright and Margaret House. In those days it was customary for
slaves to carry the name of their owners. His father was owned by Mr.
Spencer Wright and his mother was owned by Mr. Phil House. Both of these
slave owners lived in the same district. His grandparents, Kittie and
Anite House also belonged to Mr. Phil House and it was they who told him
how they had been sold like cattle while in Virginia to a speculator
(slave dealer) and brought to Decatur, Ga. where they were sold to Mr.

Mr. Wright lived with his mother on the House plantation for several
years then he was given to Mr. George House, the brother of Phil House,
as a wedding present. However, he saw his parents often as they were all
allowed "passes" so that they might visit one another.

According to Mr. Wright, his master was a very rich man and a very
intelligent one. His plantation consisted of about three or four hundred
acres of land on which he raised cotton, cane, corn, vegetables and live
stock. Although he was not very mean to his slaves or "servants" as he
called them, neither did his kindness reach the gushing or overflowing

On this plantation there were a large number of slaves, some of whom
worked in "Old Marster's" (as Mr. House was called) house and some of
whom worked in the fields.

As a youngster Mr. Wright had to pick up chips around the yard, make
fires and keep the house supplied with water which he got from the well.
When he was ten years of age he was sent to the field as a plow-boy. He
remembers that his mother and father also worked in the fields. In
relating his experience as a field hand Mr. Wright says that he and his
fellow slaves were roused each morning about 3 o'clock by the blowing of
a horn. This horn was usually blown by the white overseer or by the
Negro foreman who was known among the slaves as the "Nigger Driver." At
the sounding of the horn they had to get up and feed the stock. Shortly
after the horn was blown a bell was rung and at this signal they all
started for the fields to begin work for the day. They were in the field
long before the sun was up. Their working hours were described as being
from "sun to sun." When the time came to pick the cotton each slave was
required to pick at least 200 lbs. of cotton per day. For this purpose
each was given a bag and a large basket. The bag was hung around the
neck and the basket was placed at the end of the row. At the close of
the day the overseer met all hands at the scales with the lamp, the
slate and the whip. If any slave failed to pick the required 200 lbs. he
was soundly whipped by the overseer. Sometimes they were able to escape
this whipping by giving illness as an excuse. Another form of strategy
adopted by the slaves was to dampen the cotton or conceal stones in the
baskets, either of which would make the cotton weigh more.

Sometimes after leaving the fields at dark they had to work at
night--shucking corn, ginning cotton or weaving. Everyday except Sunday
was considered a work day. The only form of work on Sunday was the
feeding of the live stock, etc.

When Mr. Wright was asked about the treatment that was given the house
slaves in comparison to that given the field slaves, he replied with a
broad grin that "Old Marster" treated them much the same as he would a
horse and a mule. That is, the horse was given the kind of treatment
that would make him show off in appearance, while the mule was given
only enough care to keep him well and fit for work. "You see," continued
Mr. Wright, "in those days a plantation owner was partially judged by
the appearance of his house servants." And so in addition to receiving
the discarded clothes of "Old Marster" and his wife, better clothing was
bought for the house slaves.

The working hours of the house slave and the field slave were
practically the same. In some cases the house slaves had to work at
night due to the fact that the master was entertaining his friends or he
was invited out and so someone had to remain up to attend to all the
necessary details.

On the plantation of Mr. House the house slaves thought themselves
better than the field slaves because of the fact that they received
better treatment. On the other hand those slaves who worked in the
fields said that they would rather work in the fields than work in the
house because they had a chance to earn spending money in their spare or
leisure time. House servants had no such opportunity.

In bad weather they were not required to go to the fields--instead they
cut hedges or did other small jobs around the house. The master did not
want them to work in bad weather because there was too much danger of
illness which meant a loss of time and money in the end.

Mr. House wanted his slaves to learn a trade such as masonry or
carpentry, etc., not because it would benefit the slave, says Mr.
Wright, but because it would make the slave sell for more in case he had
"to get shet (rid) of him." The slaves who were allowed to work with
these white mechanics, from whom they eventually learned the trade, were
eager because they would be permitted to hire themselves out. The money
they earned could be used to help buy their freedom, that is, what money
remained after the master had taken his share. On the other hand the
white mechanic had no particular objection to the slaves being there to
help him, even though they were learning the trade, because he was able
to place all the hard work on the slave which made his job easier. Mr.
Wright remembers how his grandfather used to hire his time out doing
carpentry work, making caskets and doing some masonry. He himself can
plaster, although he never hired out during slavery.

Clothing was issued once per year usually around September. An issue
consisted mostly of the following: 1 pair of heavy shoes called "Negro
Brogans." Several homespun shirts, woolen socks and two or three pairs
of jeans pants. The women were either given dresses and underskirts that
were already made or just the plain cloth to make these garments from.
Some of their clothing was bought and some was made on the plantation.
The wool socks were knitted on the plantation along with the homespun
which was woven there. The homespun was dyed by placing it in a boiling
mixture of green walnut leaves or walnut hulls. In the event that plaid
material was to be made the threads were dyed the desired color before
being woven. Another kind of dye was made from the use of a type of red
or blue berry, or by boiling red dirt in water (probably madder). The
house slaves wore calico dresses or sometimes dresses made from woolen

Often this clothing was insufficient to meet the individual needs. With
a broad smile and an almost imperceptible shake of his old gray head Mr.
Wright told how he had worked in the field without shoes when it was so
cold until the skin cracked and the blood flowed from these wounds. He
also told how he used to save his shoes by placing them under his arm
and walking barefooted when he had a long distance to go. In order to
polish these shoes a mixture of soot and syrup was used.

The young slave children wore a one-piece garment with holes cut for the
head and arms to go through. In appearance it resembled a slightly long
shirt. As Mr. House did not give blankets, the slaves were required to
make the necessary cover by piecing together left over goods. After this
process was completed, it was padded with cotton and then dyed in much
the same way as homespun. After the dyeing was completed the slave was
the owner of a new quilt.

The food that the slaves ate [**TR: was] all raised on the plantation. At
the end of each week each slave was given 3 lbs. of meat (usually pork),
1 peck of meal and some syrup. Breakfast and dinner usually consisted of
fried meat, corn bread and syrup. Vegetables were usually given at
dinner time. Sometimes milk was given at supper. It was necessary to
send the meals to the field slaves as they were usually too far away
from the house to make the trip themselves. For this purpose there was a
woman who did all the cooking for the field hands in a cook house
located among the slave cabins.

Mr. House permitted his slaves to have a garden and chickens of their
own. In fact, he gave each of them land, a small plot of ground for this
purpose. The benefit of this was twofold as far as the slave was
concerned. In the first place he could vary his diet. In the second
place he was able to earn money by selling his produce either in town or
to "Old Marster." Sometimes Old Marster took the produce to town and
sold it for them. When he returned from town the money for the sale of
this produce was given to the slave. Mr. Wright says that he and all the
other slaves felt that they were being cheated when the master sold
their goods. Mr. House also permitted his slaves to hunt and fish both
of which were done at night for the most part.

Coffee was made by parching meal and then placing it in boiling water.
To sweeten this coffee, syrup was used. One delicacy that he and the
other slaves used to have on Sunday was biscuit bread which they called
"cake bread."

All children who were too young to work in the field were cared for by
some old slave woman who was too old to go to the field. She did all of
their cooking, etc. The diet of these children usually consisted of pot
liquor, milk, vegetables and in rare cases, meat. Mr. Wright laughed
here as he stated that these children were given long handled spoons and
were seated on a long bench before a trough out of which they all ate
like little pigs. Not a slave ever suffered the pangs of hunger on the
plantation of Mr. George House.

The houses or cabins of the slaves were located a short distance in the
rear of "Old Marster's" house. These houses were usually made from
logs--the chinks being closed with mud. In some cases boards were used
on the inside of the cabin to keep the weather out, but according to Mr.
Wright, mud was always the more effective. The floor was usually covered
with boards and there were two or three windows to each cabin, shutters
being used in place of glass. The chimney and fireplace were made of
mud, sticks and stones. All cooking was done on the fireplace in iron
utensils, which Mr. Wright declares were a lot better than those used
today. For boiling, the pots hung from a long hook directly above the
fire. Such furniture as each cabin contained was all made by the slaves.
This furniture usually consisted of a wooden bench, instead of a chair,
and a crude bed made from heavy wood. Slats were used in the place of
springs. The mattress was made stuffing a large bag with wheat straw.
"This slept as good as any feather bed" says Mr. Wright. Candles were
used to furnish light at night.

On this plantation each family did not have an individual cabin.
Sometimes as many as three families shared a cabin, which of course was
rather a large one. In this case it was partitioned off by the use of

Besides having to take care of the young children, these older slaves
were required to care for those slaves who were ill. Mr. House employed
a doctor to attend his slaves when their cases seemed to warrant it. If
the illness was of a minor nature he gave them castor oil, salts or
pills himself. Then, too, the slaves had their own home remedies. Among
these were different tonics made from "yarbs" (herbs), plasters made
from mustard, and whisky, etc. Most illnesses were caused by colds and
fevers. Mr. Wright says that his two brothers and his sister, all of
whom were younger than he, died as a result of typhoid fever.

Even with all the hardships that the slaves had to suffer they still had
time to have fun and to enjoy themselves, Mr. Wright continued. At
various times Mr. House permitted them to have a frolic. These frolics
usually took place on such holidays as 4th of July, Christmas or
"laying-by time", after the cultivating of the crops was finished and
before gathering time. During the day the master provided a big barbecue
and at night the singing and dancing started. Music was furnished by
slaves who were able to play the banjo or the fiddle. The slaves usually
bought these instruments themselves and in some cases the master bought
them. "In my case," declared Mr. Wright, "I made a fiddle out of a large
sized gourd--a long wooden handle was used as a neck, and the hair from
a horse's tail was used for the bow. The strings were made of cat-gut.
After I learned to play this I bought a better violin." Sometimes the
slaves slipped away to the woods to indulge in a frolic. As a means of
protection they tied ropes across the paths where they would be less
likely to be seen. These ropes were placed at such a height as to knock
a man from his horse if he came riding up at a great speed. In this way
the master or the overseer was stopped temporarily, thereby giving the
slaves time to scamper to safety. In addition to the presents given at
Christmas (candy and clothing) the master also gave each family half a
gallon of whisky. This made the parties more lively. One of the songs
that the slaves on the House plantation used to sing at their parties
runs as follows:

  "Oh, I wouldn't have a poor girl,
   (another version says, "old maid")
   And I'll tell you the reason why,
   Her neck's so long and stringy,
   I'm afraid she'd never die."

On Sundays Mr. House required all of his slaves to attend church. All
attended a white church where they sat in the back or in the balcony.
After preaching to the white audience, the white pastor turned his
attention to the slaves. His sermon usually ran: "Obey your master and
your mistress and the Lord will love you." Sometimes a colored preacher
was allowed to preach from the same rostrum after the white pastor had
finished. His sermon was along similar lines because that is what he had
been instructed to say. None of the slaves believed in the sermons but
they pretended to do so.

Marriages were usually performed by the colored preacher although in
most cases it was only necessary for the man to approach "Old Marster"
and tell him that he wanted a certain woman for his wife. "Old Marster"
then called the woman in question and if she agreed they were pronounced
man and wife. If the woman was a prolific breeder and if the man was a
strong, healthy-looking individual she was forced to take him as a
husband whether she wanted to or not.

When Mr. Wright was asked if he had ever been arrested and placed in
jail for any offense while he was a slave he replied that in those days
few laws, if any, applied to slaves. He knows that it was against the
law for anyone to teach a slave to write because on one occasion his
father who had learned to do this with the help of his master's son was
told by the master to keep it to himself, because if the men of the
community found out that he could write they would cut his fingers or
his hand off. Horse stealing or house burning was another serious crime.
On the House plantation was a mulato slave who was to have been given
his freedom when he reached the age of 21. When this time came Mr. House
refused to free him and so an attempt was made to burn the House
mansion. Mr. Wright remembers seeing the sheriff come from town and take
this slave. Later they heard on the plantation that said slave had been

For the most part punishment consisted of severe whipping sometimes
administered by the slaves' master and sometimes by the white men of the
community known as the Patrol. To the slaves this Patrol was known as
the "Paddle" or "Paddie-Rollers." Mr. Wright says that he has been
whipped numerous times by his master for running away. When he was
caught after an attempted escape he was placed on the ground where he
was "spread-eagled," that is, his arms and feet were stretched out and
tied to stakes driven in the ground. After a severe beating, brine water
or turpentine was poured over the wounds. This kept the flies away, he
says. Mr. House did not like to whip his slaves as a scarred slave
brought very little money when placed on the auction block. A slave who
had a scarred back was considered as being unruly. Whenever a slave
attempted to escape the hounds were put on his trail. Mr. Wright was
caught and treed by hounds several times. He later found a way to elude
them. This was done by rubbing his feet in the refuse material of the
barnyard or the pasture, then he covered his legs with pine tar. On one
occasion he managed to stay away from the plantation for 6 months before
he returned of his own accord. He ran away after striking his master who
had attempted to whip him. When he returned of his own accord his master
did nothing to him because he was glad that he was not forever lost in
which case a large sum of money would have been lost. Mr. Wright says
that slave owners advertised in the newspapers for lost slaves, giving
their description, etc. If a slave was found after his master had
stopped his advertisements he was placed on the block and sold as a
"stray." While a fugitive he slept in the woods, eating wild berries,
etc. Sometimes he slipped to the plantation of his mother or that of his
father where he was able to secure food.

He took a deep puff on his pipe and a look of satisfaction crossed his
face as he told how he had escaped from the "Paddle Rollers." It was the
"Paddle-Rollers" duty to patrol the roads and the streets and to see
that no slave was out unless he had a "pass" from his master. Further,
he was not supposed to be any great distance away from the place he had
been permitted to go. If a slave was caught visiting without a "pass" or
if at any time he was off his plantation without said "pass" and had the
misfortune to be caught by the "Paddle-Rollers" he was given a sound
whipping and returned to his master.

When the Civil War began all the slaves on the House plantation grew
hopeful and glad of the prospect of being set free. Mr. House was heard
by some of the slaves to say that he hoped to be dead the day Negroes
were set free. Although the slaves prayed for their freedom they were
afraid to even sing any type of spiritual for fear of being punished.

When the Yankee troops came through near the House plantation they asked
the slaves if their master was mean to them. As the answer was "no" the
soldiers marched on after taking all the livestock that they could find.
At the adjoining plantation where the master was mean, all property was
burned. Mr. House was not present for when he heard of the approach of
Sherman he took his family, a few valuables and some slaves and fled to
Augusta. He later joined the army but was not wounded. However, his
brother, Phil House, lost a leg while in action.

Mr. Wrights says that he witnessed one battle which was fought just a
few miles beyond his plantation near Nancy's Creek. Although he did not
officially join the Yankee army he cooked for them while they were
camped in his vicinity.

When freedom was declared he says that he was a very happy man. Freedom
to him did not mean that he could quit work but that he could work for
himself as he saw fit to. After he was freed he continued working for
his master who was considerably poorer than he had ever been before.
After the war things were in such a state that even common table salt
was not available. He remembers going to the smokehouse and taking the
dirt from the floor which he later boiled. After the boiling process of
this water which was now salty was used as a result of the dripping from
the meats which had been hung there to be smoked in the "good old days."

After seven years of share-cropping with his former master Mr. Wright
decided to come to Atlanta where he has been since. He attributes his
ripe old age to sane and careful living. In any case he says that he
would rather be free than be a slave but--and as he paused he shook his
head sadly--"In those days a man did not have to worry about anything to
eat as there was always a plenty. It's a lot different now."

[HW: Dist. 6
Ex-Slave #119 v.3]


Place of birth:
On the Walton plantation, near old Baughville,
Talbot County, Georgia

Date of Birth: About 1840

Present residence:
Fifth Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets,
Columbus, Georgia

Interviewed: August 1, 1936

Dink Walton Young, better known as "Mammy Dink", is one of the oldest
ex-slaves living in Muscogee County. She was born the chattel of Major
Jack Walton, the largest ante-bellum planter and slave-holder of Talbot
County, a man who owned several hundred Negroes and ten thousand or more
acres of land. As a child, "Mammy Dink" was "brung up" with the Walton
white children, often joining and playing with them in such games as
"Mollie Bright", "William Trembletoe", and "Picking up Sticks".

The boys, white and black, and slightly older than she, played "Fox" and
"Paddle-the-Cat" together. In fact, until the white boys and girls were
ten or twelve years of age, their little Negro playmates, satellites,
bodyguards, "gangs", and servants, usually addressed them rather
familiarly by their first names, or replied to their nicknames that
amounted to titles of endearment. Thus, Miss Susie Walton--the later
Mrs. Robert Carter--was "Susie Sweet" to a host of little Negro girls of
her age. Later on, of course, this form of familiarity between slave
child and white child definitely ceased; but for all time there existed
a strong bond of close friendship, mutual understanding, and spirit of
comradeship between the Whites and Blacks of every plantation. As an
example, Pat Walton, aged 18, colored and slave, "allowed" to his young
master in 1861: "Marse Rosalius, youse gwine to de war, ain't yer?" and
without waiting for an answer, continued: "So is Pat. You knows you
ain't got no bizness in no army 'thout a Nigger to wait on yer an keep
yer outa devilment, Marse Rosalius. Now, doen gin me no argyment, Marse
Rosalius, case ise gwine 'long wid yer, and dat settles it, sah, it do,
whether you laks it or you don't lak it." Parenthetically, it might be
here inserted that this speech of Pat's to his young master was typical
of a "style" that many slaves adopted in "dictating" to their white
folks, and many Southern Negroes still employ an inoffensive, similar
style to "dominate" their white friends.

According to "Mammy Dink", and otherwise verified, every time a Negro
baby was born on one of his plantations, Major Dalton gave the mother a
calico dress and a "bright, shiny", silver dollar.

All Walton slaves were well fed and clothed and, for a "drove" of about
fifty or sixty little "back-yard" piccaninnies, the Waltons assumed all
responsibility, except at night. A kind of compound was fenced off for
"dese brats" to keep them in by day.

When it rained, they had a shelter to go under; play-houses were built
for them, and they also had see-saws, toys, etc. Here, their parents
"parked dese younguns" every morning as they went to the fields and to
other duties, and picked them up at night. These children were fed about
five times a day in little wooden trough-like receptacles. Their
principal foods were milk, rice, pot-licker, vegetables and corn
dumplings; and they stayed so fat and sleek "dat de Niggers calt 'em
Marse Major's little black pigs."

The average weekly ration allowed an adult Walton slave was a peck of
meal, two "dusters" of flour (about six pounds), seven pounds of flitch
bacon, a "bag" of peas, a gallon of grits, from one to two quarts of
molasses, a half pound of green coffee--which the slave himself parched
and "beat up" or ground, from one to two cups of sugar, a "Hatful" of
peas, and any "nicknacks" that the Major might have--as extras.

Many acres were planted to vegetables each year for the slaves and, in
season, they had all the vegetables they could eat, also Irish potatoes,
sweet potatoes, roasting ears, watermelons and "stingy green" (home
raised tobacco). In truth, the planters and "Niggers" all used "stingy
green", there then being very little if any "menufro" (processed
tobacco) on the market.

The standard clothes of the slaves were: jeans in the winter for men and
women, cottonades and osnabergs for men in the summer, and calicos and
"light goods" for the women in the summer time. About 75% of the cloth
used for slaves' clothing was made at home.

If a "Nigger come down sick", the family doctor was promptly called to
attend him and, if he was bad off, the Major "sat up" with him, or had
one of his over-seers do so.

Never in her life was "Mammy Dink" whipped by any of the Waltons or
their over-seers. Moreover, she never knew a Negro to be whipped by a
white person on any of the dozen or more Walton plantations. She never
"seed" a pataroler in her life, though she "has heard tell dat Judge
Henry Willis, Marses Johnnie B. Jones, Ned Giddens, Gus O'Neal, Bob
Baugh, an Jedge Henry Collier rid as patarolers" when she was a girl.

When the Yankee raiders came through in '65, "Mammy Dink" was badly
frightened by them. She was also highly infuriated with them for
"stealin de white fokes' things", burning their gins, cotton and barns,
and conducting themselves generally as bandits and perverts.

In 1875, the year of the cyclone "whooch kilt sebenteen fokes twixt
Ellesli (Ellerslie) and Talbotton", including an uncle of her's. "Mammy
Dink" was living at the Dr. M.W. Peter's place near Baughville. Later,
she moved with her husband--acquired subsequent to freedom--to the Dr.
Thomas D. Ashford's place, in Harris County, near Ellerslie. There, she
lost her husband and, about thirty-five years ago, moved to Columbus to
be near Mrs. John T. Davis, Jr., an only daughter of Dr. Ashford, to
whom she long ago became very attached.

When interviewed, "Mammy Dink" was at Mrs. Davis' home, "jes piddlin
'round", as she still takes a pride in "waiting on her white fokes."

Naturally, for one of her age, the shadows are lengthening. "Mammy Dink"
has never had a child; all her kin are dead; she is 96 and has no money
and no property, but she has her memories and, "thank Gawd", Mrs.
Davis--her guardian-angel, friend and benefactress.

Ex-Slave #119

[HW: (From Columbus News-Record of Dec-8-1936)]

Mammy Dink, who cooked and served and gained pure joy through faithful
service, has gone to the Big House in the skies. She lacked but a few
years of a hundred and most of it was spent in loving service. She was
loyal to the families she worked for and was, to all practical intents,
a member of the family circle. She was 94 or 95 when she passed
away--Mammy was about to lose track of mere age, she was so busy with
other things--and she was happily at work to within a week of her death.
She was an institution in Columbus, and one of the best known of the
many faithful and loyal colored servants in this city.

Mammy Dink--her full name, by the way, was Dink Young--started out as a
cook in a Talbot county family and wound up her career as cook for the
granddaughter of her original employer. She was first in service in the
home of Dr. M.W. Peters, in Talbot county, and later was the cook in the
family of Dr. T.R. Ashford, at Ellerslie, in Harris county. Then, coming
to Columbus, she was cook in the home of the late Captain T.J. Hunt for
some 20 years.

For the last 27 years she had been cook for Mrs. John T. Davis, just as
she had been cook in the home of her father, Dr. Ashford, and her
grandfather, Dr. Peters.

Mammy, in leisure hours, used to sit on the coping at the Sixteenth
street school, and watch the world go by. But her greatest joy was in
the kitchen.

The Davis family was devoted to the faithful old servant. A week ago she
developed a severe cold and was sent to the hospital. She passed away
Saturday night--the old body had given out. The funeral service was
conducted yesterday afternoon from St. Philips colored church in Girard.
She was buried in a churchyard cemetery, two or three miles out, on the
Opelika road. The white people who were present wept at the departure of
one who was both servant and friend.

Thus passes, to a sure reward, Mammy Dink, whose life was such a

[HW: Mammy Dink died Saturday night, Dec. 5th, 1936]


[HW: Dist 1-2
Ex-Slave #24]

Supervisor: Miss Velma Bell
[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]



"Aunt Adeline," an ex-slave of Wilkes County, Georgia, thinks she is
"around a hundred." Her first memory is, in her own words, "my love for
my mother. I loved her so! I would cry when I couldn't be with her. When
I growed up, I kep' on loving her jes' that-a-way, even after I married
and had children of my own."

Adeline's mother worked in the field, drove steers, and was considered
the best meat cutter on the plantation. The slave women were required to
spin, and Adeline's mother was unusually good at spinning wool, "and
that kind of spinning was powerful slow," added the old woman. "My
mother was one of the best dyers anywhere around. I was too. I made
colors by mixing up all kinds of bark and leaves. I made the prettiest
sort of lilac color with maple bark and pine bark--not the outside pine
bark, but that little thin skin that grows right down next to the tree."
Adeline remembers one dress she loved: "I never will forget it as long
as I live. It was a hickory stripe dress they made for me, with brass
buttons at the wrist bands. I was so proud of that dress and felt so
dressed up in it, I just strutted!"

She remembers the plantation store and the candy the master gave the
Negro children. "Bright, pretty sticks of candy!" Tin cups hold a
special niche in her memory. But there were punishments, too. "Good or
bad, we got whippings with a long cowhide kept just for that. They
whipped us to make us grow better, I reckon!"

Asked about doctors, Adeline replied:

"I was born, growed up, married and had sixteen children and never had
no doctor till here since I got so old!"

Plantation ingenuity was shown in home concoctions and tonics. At the
first sniffle of a cold, the slaves were called in and given a drink of
fat lightwood tea, made by pouring boiling water over split kindling.
"'Cause lightwood got turpentine in it," explained Adeline. She said
that a springtime tonic was made of anvil dust, gathered at the
blacksmith's shop, mixed with syrup. This was occasionally varied with a
concoction of garlic and whiskey!

Adeline adheres to traditional Negro beliefs, and concluded her
recountal of folklore with the dark prediction: "Every gloomy day brings
death. Somebody leaving this unfriendly world to-day!"


Another version of slavery was given by Eugene, an Augusta Negro. His
mother was brought to Augusta from Pennsylvania and freed when she came
of age. She married a slave whose master kept a jewelry store. The freed
woman was required to put a guardian over her children. The jeweler paid
Eugene's father fifty cents a week and was angry when his mother refused
to allow her children to work for him. Eugene's mother supported her
children by laundry work. "Free colored folks had to pay taxes," said
Eugene, "And in Augusta you had to have a pass to go from house to
house. You couldn't go out at night in Augusta after 9 o'clock. They had
a bell at the old market down yonder, and it would strike every hour and
half hour. There was an uptown market, too, at Broad and McKinne."

Eugene told of an old Negro preacher, Ned Purdee, who had a school for
Negro children in his back yard, in defiance of a law prohibiting the
education of Negroes. Ned, said Eugene, was put in jail but the
punishment of stocks and lashes was not intended to be executed. The
sympathetic jailor told the old man: "Ned, I won't whip you. I'll just
whip down on the stock, and you holler!" So Ned made a great noise, the
jailor thrashed about with his stick, and no harm was done.

Eugene touched on an unusual angle of slavery when he spoke of husbands
and wives discovering that they were brother and sister. "They'd talk
about their grandfathers and grandmothers, and find out that they had
been separated when they were children," he said. "When freedom was
declared, they called the colored people down to the parade ground. They
had built a big stand, and the Yankees and some of the leading colored
men made addresses. 'You are free now. Don't steal. Work and make a
living. Do honest work. There are no more masters. You are all free.' He
said the Negro troops came in, singing:

  "Don't you see the lightning?
   Don't you hear the thunder?
   It isn't the lightning,
   It isn't the thunder,
   It's the buttons on
   The Negro uniforms!"


Mary is a tiny woman, 90 years old. "I'd love to see some of the white
folks boys and girls," she said, smiling and showing a set of strong new
teeth. "We had school on our plantation, and a Negro teacher named
Mathis, but they couldn't make me learn nothin'. I sure is sorry now!"

Mary's plantation memories, in contrast to those of slaves who remember
mostly molasses and corn-pone, include tomato rice, chickens, baked,
fried and stewed. "And chicken pies!" Mary closed her eyes. "Don't talk
about 'em! I told my grand children last week, I wanted to eat some
old-time potato pie!"

They played "peep-squirrel," Mary remembered. "I never could put up to
dance much, but none could beat me runnin'. "Peep Squirrel" was a game
we made up on the plantation. The girls peeped out, then ran by the men,
and they'd be caught and twirled around. They said I was like a kildee
bird, I was so little and could run so fast! They said I was married
when I was 17 years old. I know it was after freedom. I had the finest
kind of marrying dress that my father bought for me. It had great big
grapes hanging down from the sleeves and around the skirt." Mary sighed.
"I wish't I had-a kep' it for my children to saw!"


Rachel's master called his people "servants", not Negroes or slaves. "He
de bes' marster in de worl'," said Rachel. "I love his grave!"

Rachel nursed her aunt's children while the mother acted as nurse for
"de lady's baby whut come fum Russia wid de marster's wife." The czarina
was godmother for the ambassador's baby. "Marster bin somewheh in de
back part o' de worl'." explained the old woman, "You see, he wuz de
guv'nor. He knowed all de big people, senetras and all." Rachel laughed.
"I was a old maid when I married," she said. "De broom wuz de law. All
we hadder do was step over de broom befo' witnesses and we wuz marry!"


"As far as I kin rekellec'," said Laura, "my mother was give." She could
not remember her age, but estimated that she might be 75 years old. Her
native dignity was evident in her calm manner, her neat clothing and the
comfortable, home-like room. "Dey say in dem days," she continued, "when
you marry, dey give you so many colored people. My mother, her brother
and her aunt was give to young Mistis when she marry de Baptis' preacher
and come to Augusta. When dey brought us to Augusta, I wuz de baby.
Round wheh de barracks is now, was de Baptis' parsonage. My mother was a
cook. I kin remember de Yankees comin' down Broad Street. Dey put up
wheh de barracks is on Reynolds Street. Dey ca'yed me to de fairground.
De man was speakin'. I thought it wuz up in de trees, but I know now it
muster been a platform in bushes. Mistis say to me: 'Well, Laura, what
did you see?' I say: 'Mistis, we is all free.' I such a lil' chile she
jus' laugh at me for saying sich a thing. When I was sick, she nuss me

Laura remembered a long house with porches on Ellis Street, "running
almost to Greene," between 7th and 8th, where slaves were herded and
kept for market day. "Dey would line 'em up like horses or cows," she
said, "and look in de mouf' at dey teeth. Den dey march 'em down
together to market, in crowds, first Tuesday sale day."


In contrast to the pleasant recollections of most of the ex-slaves,
Matilda gave a vivid picture of the worst phase of plantation life on a
Georgia plantation. She had been plowing for four years when the war

"I wuz in about my thirteen when de war end," she mumbled, "Fum de fus'
overseer, dey whu-op me to show me how to wuk. I wuk hard, all de time.
I never had no good times. I so old I kain't rekellec' my marster's
name. I kain't 'member, honey. I had too hard time. We live in, a
weather-board house, jus' hulled in. We had to eat anyting dey give us,
mos'ly black 'lasses in a great big ole hogshead. When de war gwine on,
we had to live on rice, mos'ly, what dey raise. We had a hard time.
Didn't know we wuz free for a long time. All give overseer so mean, de
slaves run away. Dey gits de blood-houn' to fin' 'em. Dey done dug cave
in de wood, down in de ground, and hide dere. Dey buckle de slave down
to a log and beat de breaf' outter dem, till de blood run all over
everywhere. When night come, dey drug 'em to dey house and greases 'em
down wid turpentine and rub salt in dey woun's to mek 'em hurt wuss. De
overseer give de man whiskey to mek him mean. When dey whu-op my mother,
I crawl under de house and cry."

One of Matilda's younger friends, listening, nodded her head in

"When Matilda's mind was clearer she told us terrible stories," she
said. "It makes all the rest of us thankful we weren't born in those

Matilda was mumbling end weeping.

"Dey wuz mean overseer," she whispered. "But dey wuz run out o' de
country. Some white ladies in de neighborhood reported 'um and had 'um
run out."


"Aunt Easter" is from Burke County. Her recollections are not quite so
appalling as Matilda's, but they are not happy memories.

"Dey didn' learn me nothin' but to churn and clean up house. 'Tend day
boy, churn dat milk, spin and cyard dat roll."

Asked if the slaves were required to go to Church, Easter shook her

"Too tired. Sometime we even had to pull fodder on Sunday. Sometime we
go to church, but all dey talk about wuz obeyin' Massa and obeyin'
Missus. Befo' we went to church, we had to git up early and wash and
iron our clo'es."

Easter's brother was born the day Lee surrendered. "Dey name him
Richmond," she said.


Carrie had plenty to eat in slavery days. "I'd be a heap better off if
it was dem times now," she said, "My folks didn't mistreet de slaves.
When freedom come, de niggers come 'long wid dere babies on dey backs
and say I wuz free. I tell 'em I already free! Didn't mek no diffrunce
to me, freedom!"


Malinda would gladly exchange all worldly possessions and freedom to
have plantation days back again. She owns her home and has a garden of
old-fashioned flowers, due to her magic "growing hand."

"I belonged to a preacher in Ca'lina," said Malinda. "A Baptis'
preacher. My fambly wasn't fiel' han's, dey wuz all house servants.
Marster wouldn't sell none o' his slaves. When he wanted to buy one,
he'd buy de whole fambly to keep fum having 'em separated."

Malinda and her sister belonged to the young girls. "Whar'ever da young
Mistises visited, we went right erlong. My own mammy tuk long trips wid
ole Mistis to de Blue Ridge Mountings and sometimes over de big water."
Malinda said the slaves danced to "quills," a home-made reed instrument.
"My mammy wuz de bes' dancer on de planteshun," asserted the old woman.
"She could dance so sturdy, she could balance a glass of water on her
head and never spill a drap!"


Amelia, like many of the old slaves in Augusta to-day, came from South

"I put on a hoopskirt one time," she said. "I wanted to go to church wid
a hoop on. I such a lil' gal, all de chillun laugh at me, playin' lady.
I take it off and hide it in de wood."

Amelia remembered her young mistresses with affection. "Dey wuz so good
to me," she said, "dey like to dress me up! I was a lil' gal wid a tiny
wais'. Dey put corsets on me and lace me up tight, and then dey take off
all dey medallion and jewelry and hang 'em roun' my neck and put long
sash on me. I look pretty to go to dance. When I git back, I so tired I
thow myself on de bed and sleep wid dat tight corset on me!"


ELLEN CAMPBELL, 1030 Brayton Street, Augusta, Ga., Born 1846.

Ellen Campbell lives in a little house in a garden behind a picket
fence. Ellen is a sprightly, erect, black woman ninety years old. Beady
little eyes sparkled behind her glasses as she talked to us. Her manner
is alert, her mind is very keen and her memory of the old days very
clear. Though the temperature was in the high nineties she wore two
waists, and her clothes were clean and neatly patched. There was no
headcloth covering the fuzzy grey wool that was braided into innumerable

She invited us into her tiny cabin. The little porch had recently been
repaired, while the many flowers about the yard and porch gave evidence
of constant and loving care to this place which had been bought for her
long ago by a grandson who drove a "hack." When she took us into the
crowded, but clean room, she showed us proudly the portrait of this big
grandson, now dead. All the walls were thickly covered with framed
pictures of different members of her family, most of whom are now dead.
In their midst was a large picture of Abraham Lincoln.

"Dere's all my chillun. I had fo' daughter and three 'grands', but all
gone now but one niece. I deeded de place to her. She live out north
now, but she send back de money fer de taxes and insurance and to pay de

Then she proudly pointed out a framed picture of herself when she was

"Why Auntie, you were certainly nice looking then."

Her chest expanded and her manner became more sprightly as she said, "I
wus de pebble on de beach den!"

"And I suppose you remember about slavery days?"

"Yes ma'm, I'm ninety years old--I wus a grown 'oman when freedom come.
I 'longed to Mr. William Eve. De plantachun was right back here--all dis
land was fields den, slap down to Bolzes'."

"So you remember a lot about those times?"

She laughed delightedly. "Yas'm. I 'longed to Miss Eva Eve. My missus
married Colonel Jones. He got a boy by her and de boy died."

"You mean Colonel Jones, the one who wrote books?"

"Yas'm. He a lawyer, too, down to de Cote House. My missus was Mrs.
Carpenter's mother, but she didn't brought her here."

"You mean she was her step-mother?"

"Yas'm, dat it. I go to see dem folks on de hill sometime. Dey good to
me, allus put somepen in mah hands."

"What kind of work did you do on the plantation?"

"When I wus 'bout ten years old dey started me totin' water--you know
ca'in water to de hands in de field. 'Bout two years later I got my
first field job, 'tending sheep. When I wus fifteen my old Missus gib me
to Miss Eva--you know she de one marry Colonel Jones. My young missus
wus fixin' to git married, but she couldn't on account de war, so she
brought me to town and rented me out to a lady runnin' a boarding house.
De rent was paid to my missus. One day I wus takin' a tray from de
out-door kitchen to de house when I stumbled and dropped it. De food
spill all over de ground. De lady got so mad she picked up a butcher
knife and chop me in de haid. I went runnin' till I come to de place
where my white folks live. Miss Eva took me and wash de blood out mah
head and put medicine on it, and she wrote a note to de lady and she
say, 'Ellen is my slave, give to me by my mother. I wouldn't had dis
happen to her no more dan to me. She won't come back dere no more.'"

"Were you ever sold during slavery times, Aunt Ellen?"

"No'm. I wa'nt sold, but I knows dem whut wus. Jedge Robinson he kept de
nigger trade office over in Hamburg."

"Oh yes, I remember the old brick building."

"Yas'm, dat it. Well, all de colored people whut gonner be sold was kept
dere. Den dey brung 'em over to de market and put 'em up fer sale.
Anybody fixin' to buy 'em, 'zamines 'em to see if dey all right. Looks
at de teef to tell 'bout de age."

"And was your master good to you, Auntie?"

"I'll say dis fer Mr. William Eve--he de bes' white man anywhere round
here on any dese plantachuns. Dey all own slaves. My boss would feed 'em
well. He wus killin' hogs stidy fum Jinury to March. He had two
smoke-houses. Dere wus four cows. At night de folks on one side de row
o' cabins go wid de piggins fer milk, and in de mawnin's dose on de
odder side go fer de piggins o' milk."

"And did you have plenty of other things to eat?"

"Law, yas'm. Rations wus given out to de slaves; meal, meat and jugs o'
syrup. Dey give us white flour at Christmas. Every slave family had de
gyrden patch, and chickens. Marster buy eggs and chickens fum us at
market prices."

"Did the overseers ever whip the slaves or treat them cruelly?"

"Sometimes dey whup 'em--make 'em strip off dey shirt and whup 'em on de
bare skin. My boss had a white overseer and two colored men dey call
drivers. If dey didn't done right dey dus whup you and turn you loose."

"Did the Eves have a house on the plantation, too?"

"No'm, dey live in town, and he come back and fo'th every day. It warn't
but three miles. De road run right fru de plantachun, and everybody
drive fru it had to pay toll. Dat toll gate wus on de D'Laigle
plantachun. Dey built a house fer Miss Kitty Bowles down by de double
gate where dey had to pay de toll. Dat road where de Savannah Road is."

When asked about war times on the plantation Ellen recalled that when
the Northern troops were around Waynesboro orders were sent to all the
masters of the nearby plantations to send ten of their best men to build
breastworks to hold back the northern advance.

"Do you remember anything about the good times or weddings on the

She laughed delightedly. "Yas'm. When anybody gwine be married dey tell
de boss and he have a cake fix. Den when Sunday come, atter dey be
married, she put on de white dress she be married in and dey go up to
town so de boss see de young couple."

"Den sometimes on Sadday night we have a big frolic. De nigger frum
Hammond's place and Phinizy place, Eve place, Clayton place, D'Laigle
place all git togedder fer big dance and frolic. A lot o' de young white
sports used to come dere and push de nigger bucks aside and dance wid de

"What happened, Auntie, if a slave from one plantation wanted to marry a
slave from another?"

She laughed significantly. "Plenty. Old Mr. Miller had a man name Jolly
and he wanner marry a woman off anudder plantachun, but Jolly's Marster
wanna buy de woman to come to de plantachun. He say, 'Whut's fair fer de
goose is fair fer de gander.' When dey couldn't come to no 'greement de
man he run away to de woods. Den dey sot de bloodhounds on 'im. Dey let
down de rail fence so de hounds could git fru. Dey sarch de woods and de
swamps fer Jolly but dey neber find him.

"De slaves dey know whar he is, and de woman she visit him. He had a den
down dere and plenty o' grub dey take 'im, but de white folks neber find
him. Five hundred dollars wus what Miller put out for whomsover git

"And you say the woman went to visit him?"

"Yes, Ma'm. De woman would go dere in de woods wid him. Finally one
night when he was outer de swamp he had to lie hidin' in de ditch all
night, cross from de nigger hospital. Den somebody crep' up and shot
him, but he didn't die den. Dey cay'ed his [TR: sic] crost to de
hospital and he die three days later."

"What about church? Did you go to church in those days?"

"Yas'm, we used to go to town. But de padderolas wus ridin' in dem days,
and you couldn't go off de plantachun widout a pass. So my boss he build
a brick church on de plantachuhn, and de D'Laigles build a church on

"What happened if they caught you off without a pass?"

"If you had no pass dey ca'y you to de Cote House, and your marster
hadder come git you out."

"Do you remember anything about the Yankees coming to this part of the

At this her manner became quite sprightly, as she replied, "Yas'm, I
seen 'em comin' down de street. Every one had er canteen on he side, a
blanket on his shoulder, caps cocked on one side de haid. De cavalry had
boots on and spurros on de boots. First dey sot de niggers free on Dead
River, den dey come on here to sot us free. Dey march straight up Broad
Street to de Planters' Hotel, den dey camped on Dead River, den dey
camped on de river. Dey stayed here six months till dey sot dis place
free. When dey campin' on de river bank we go down dere and wash dey
clo'es fer a good price. Dey had hard tack to eat. Dey gib us de hard
tack and tell us to soak it in Water, and fry it in de meat gravy. I
ain't taste nothing so good since. Dey say, 'Dis hard tack whut we
hadder lib on while we fightin' to sot you free."

RACHEL SULLIVAN, 1327 Reynolds Street, Augusta, Ga., Born 1852.

We found Rachel Sullivan sitting on the porch of a two room house on
Reynolds Street. She is a large, fleshy woman. Her handmade yellow
homespun was baggy and soiled, and her feet were bare, though her shoes
were beside her rocker.

We approached her cautiously. "Auntie, we heard you were one of the
slaves who used to live on Governor Pickens' place over near Edgefield."

"Yas'm, Yas'm. I shore wus. He gin us our chu'ch--de one over yonder on
de Edgefield road. No'm you can't see it fum de road. You has to cross
de creek. Old Marster had it pulled out de low ground under de brush
arbor, and set it dere."

"And what did you do on the plantation, Auntie?"

"I wus a nu's gal, 'bout 'leben years old. I nu'sed my Auntie's chillun,
while she nu'sed de lady's baby whut come from Russia wid de Marster's
wife--nu'sed dat baby fum de breas's I mean. All de white ladies had wet
nusses in dem days. Her master had just returned from Russia, where he
had been ambassador. Her baby had the czarina for a godmother."

"And so you used to look after you aunt's children?"

"Yas'm. I used to play wid 'em in de big ground wid de monuments all

"Miss Lucy Holcome was Governor Pickens' second wife, wasn't she?"

"Musta wus, ma'm."

"And were you born on the plantation at Edgefield?"

"I wus born at Ninety-six. Log Creek place was Marster's second place.
Oh, he had plantachuns everywhere, clear over to Alabama. He had
overseers on all de places, ma'm."

"Did the overseers whip you or were they good?"

"Overseers wus good. Dey better been good to us, Marster wouldn't let
'em been nothin' else. And Marster wus good. Lawdy, us had de bes'
Marster in de world. It wus great times when he come to visit de
plantachun. Oh Lord, when de Governor would come--dey brung in all de
sarvants. Marster call us 'sarvants', not 'niggers.' He say 'niggers wuk
down in de lagoons.' So when de Governor come dey brung in all de
sarvants, and all de little chillun, line 'em's up whar Marster's
cai'age gwine pass. And Marster stop dere in de lane and 'zamine us all
to see is us all right. He de bes' Marster in de world. I love his

"Den he'd talk to de overseer. Dere was Emmanuel and Mr. DeLoach. He gib
'em a charge. Dey couldn't whup us or treat us mean."

"How many slaves did your Master have, Auntie?"

"Oh, I don't know 'xactly--over a thousand in all I reckon. He had
plantachuns clear over to Alabama. Marster wus a world manager! Lordy, I
luv my Marster. Dere wus 'bout seventy plower hands, and 'bout a hunnard
hoe hands."

"Did your master ever sell any of the slaves off his plantation?"

"No'm--not 'less dey did wrong. Three of 'em had chillun by de overseer,
Mr. Whitefield, and Marster put 'em on de block. No ma'm he wouldn't
tolerate dat. He say you keep de race pure. Lawdy, he made us lib right
in dem time."

"And what did he do to the overseer?"

"He sont him off--he sont him down to de low place."

"I guess you had plenty to eat in those good old days?"

"Oh, yes ma'm--dey's kill a hunnard hogs."

"And what kind of houses did you have?"

"Des like dis street--two rows facin' each odder, only dey wus log

"Did they have only one room?"

"Yas'm. But sometimes dey drap a shed room down if dere wus heap o'

"Did you have a good time at Christmas?"

"Oh yas'm. No matter where Marster wus--crost de water er ennywhere he
send us a barrel o' apples, and chestnuts--dey had chestnuts in dem
days--and boxes o' candy. He sont 'em to 'Manuel and Mr. DeLoach to gib

"So your master would sometimes be across the water?"

"Lawdy, yas'm, he be dere somewhere in de back part o' de world. You see
he wus gov'nur. He knowed all de big people--Mr. Ben Tillman and all--he
was senetra."

"Auntie do you remember seeing any of the soldiers during the war?"

"Does I? Law honey! Dey come dere to de plantachun 'bout ten o'clock
after dey surrender. Oh and dey wus awful, some of 'em wid legs off or
arms off. De niggers took all de mules and put 'em down in de sand
field. Den dey took all de wimmens and put 'em in de chillun's house.
And dey lef' a guard dere to stand over 'em, and tell him not to git off
de foot. You know dey didn't want put no temptation in de way o' dem

"What kind of work did some of the slave women do?"

"Everything. I had a one-legged auntie--she was de seamster. She sew fum
one year end to de odder. Anodder auntie wus a loomer."

"And where did you go to church?"

"We went to de Salem Chu'ch. Yas'm we all go to chu'ch. Marster want us
to go to chu'ch. We sit on one side--so--and dey sit over dere. Dey wus
Methodis'. My mother was Methodis', but dey gib her her letter when
freedom come."

"How about dances, Auntie? Did they have dances and frolics?"

"Yassum, on Sadday night. But boys had to git a pass when dey go out or
de Padderola git 'em."

"So you had a happy time in those days, eh?"

"Lawdy, yas'm. If de world would done now like dey did den de world
wouldn't be in such a mess. I gwine on eighty-five, but I wish de young
ones wus raise now like I was raise. Marster taught us to do right."

"How many children have you?"

"I had 'leben--seben livin now." Then she laughed. "But I wus ole maid
when I git married."

"I wus twenty years old! In dem days all dey hadder do to git married
wus step over de broom."

"Step over the broom. Didn't your master have the preacher come and
marry you?"

"Lawdy, no'm. De broom wus de law!" Then she laughed. "Jus' say you
wanner be married and de couple git together 'fore witnesses and step
ober de broom."

"Do you remember when freedom came?"

"Lawdy yas'm. Mr. DeLoach come riding up to de plantachun in one o' dem
low-bellied ca'yages. He call to Jo and James--dem de boys what stay
round de house to bring wood and rake de grass and sich--he sont Jo and
Jim down to all de fields to tell all de hands to come up. Dey unhitch
de mules fum de plows and come wid de chains rattlin', and de cotton
hoers put dey hoes on dey shoulders--wid de blades shinin' in de sun,
and all come hurrying to hear what Mr. DeLoach want wid'em. Den he read
de freedom warrant to 'em. One man so upset he start runnin' and run
clear down to de riber and jump in."

EUGENE WESLEY SMITH, 1105 Robert Street, Augusta, Ga., Born 1852

Eugene is 84 years old. He has thin features, trembling lips and a
sparse beard. His skin is a deep brown, lined and veined. His legs
showing over white socks are scaly. His hands are palsied, but his mind
is intelligent. He shows evidences of association with white people in
his manner of speech, which at times is in the manner of white persons,
again reverting to dialect.

Eugene stated that his father was a slave who belonged to Steadman Clark
of Augusta, and acted as porter in Mr. Clark's jewelry store on Broad
Street. His grandmother came from Pennsylvania with her white owners. In
accordance with the laws of the state they had left, she was freed when
she came of age, and married a man named Smith. Her name was Louisa.
Eugene's "Arnt" married a slave. As his mother was free, her children
were free, but Eugene added:

"She had put a Guardian over us, and Captain Crump was our guardian.
Guardians protected the Negro children who belonged to them."

To illustrate that children were considered the property of the mothers'
owners, he added that his uncle went to Columbia County and married a
slave, and that all of her children belonged to her master.

Mr. Clark, who owned Eugene's father, paid him 50¢ a week, and was angry
when Louisa refused to allow her children to work for him.

"He was good in a way," admitted Eugene, "Some masters were cruel to the
colored people, but a heap of white people won't believe it.

"I was too little to do any work before freedom. I just stayed with my
mother, and ran around. She did washing for white folks. We lived in a
rented house. My father's master, Mr. Clark, let him come to see us
sometimes at night. Free colored folks had to pay taxes. Mother had to
pay taxes. Then when they came of age, they had to pay taxes again. Even
in Augusta you had to have a pass to go from house to house. They had
frolics. Sometimes the white people came and looked at 'em having a good
time. You couldn't go out at night in Augusta after 9 o'clock. They had
a bell at the old market down yonder, and it would strike every hour and
every half hour. There was an uptown market, too, at Broad and McKinne."

Asked about school, Eugene said:

"Going to school wasn't allowed, but still some people would slip their
children to school. There was an old Methodist preacher, a Negro named
Ned Purdee, he had a school for boys and girls going on in his back
yard. They caught him and put him in jail. He was to be put in stocks
and get so many lashes every day for a month. I heard him tell many
times how the man said: 'Ned, I won't whip you. I'll whip on the stock,
and you holler.' So Ned would holler out loud, as if they were whipping
him. They put his feet and hands in the holes, and he was supposed to be
whipped across his back."

"I read in the paper where a lady said slaves were never sold here in
Augusta at the old market, but I saw them selling slaves myself. They
put them up on something like a table, bid 'em off just like you would
horses or cows. Dey was two men. I kin rekellect. I know one was called
Mr. Tom Heckle. He used to buy slaves, speculating. The other was named
Wilson. They would sell your mother from the children. That was the
reason so many colored people married their sisters and brothers, not
knowing until they got to talking about it. One would say, 'I remember
my grandmother,' and another would say, "that's _my_ grandmother," then
they'd find out they were sister and brother.

"Speculators used to steal children," said Eugene. "I saw the wagons.
They were just like the wagons that came from North Carolina with apples
in. Dey had big covers on them. The speculators had plantations where
they kept the children until they were big enough to sell, and they had
an old woman there to tend to those children."

"I was a butler." (A dreamy look came into Eugene's old eyes.) "So I
were young. I saw a girl and fell in love with her, and asked her to
marry me. 'Yes,' she said, 'when I get grown!' I said, 'I am not quite
grown myself.' I was sixteen years old. When I was twenty-one years old
I married her in my father's house. My mother and father were dead then.
I had two sisters left, but my brothers were dead too."

"I quit butling when I got married. They was enlarging the canal here.
It was just wide enough for the big flats to go up with cotton. They
widened it, and I went to work on dat, for $1.25 a day. They got in some
Chinese when it was near finished, but they wasn't any good. The
Irishmen wouldn't work with niggers, because they said they could make
the job last eight years--the niggers worked too fast. They accomplished
it in about four years.

"After working on the canal, I left there and helped dig the foundations
of Sibley Mill. The raceway, the water that run from canal to river, I
helped dig that. Then after that, I went to Mr. Berckmans and worked for
him for fifty years. All my children were raised on his place. That's
how come my boy do garden work now. I worked for 50¢ a day, but he give
me a house on the place. He 'lowed me to have chickens, a little fence,
and a garden. He was very good to us. That was Mr. P.J. Berckmans. I
potted plants all day long. I used to work at night. I wouldn't draw no
money, just let them keep it for me. After they found out I could read
and write and was an honest fellow, they let me take my work home, and
my children helped me make the apple grass and plum grass, and mulberry
grass. A man come and told me he would give me $60 a month if I would go
with him, but I didn't I couldn't see hardly at all then--I was wearing
glasses. Now, in my 84th year, I can read the newspaper, Bible and
everything without glasses. My wife died two years ago." (Tears came
into Eugene's eyes, and his face broke up) "We lived together 62 years!"

Asked if his wife had been a slave, Eugene answered that she was but a
painful effort of memory did not reveal her owner's name.

"I do remember she told me she had a hard time," he went on slowly. "Her
master and misses called themselves 'religious people' but they were not
good to her. They took her about in the barouche when they were
visiting. She had to mind the children. They had a little seat on the
back, and they'd tie her up there to keep her from falling off. Once
when they got to a big gate, they told her to get down and open it for
the driver to go through, not knowing the hinges was broken. That big
gate fell on her back and she was down for I don't know how long. Before
she died, she complained of a pain in her back, and the doctor said it
must have been from a lick when she was a child.

"During the war there were some Southern soldiers went through. I and
two friends of mine were together. Those soldiers caught us and made us
put our hands down at our knees, and tied 'em, and run the stick through

"It was wintertime. They had a big fire. They pushed us nearer and nearer
the fire, until we hollered. It was just devilment. They was having fun
with us, kept us tied up about a half hour. There was a mulatto boy with
us, but they thought he was white, and didn't bother him. One time they
caught us and throwed us up in blankets, way up, too--I was about 11
years old then."

Asked about church, Eugene said:

"We went to bush meetings up on the Sand Hill out in the woods. They
didn't have a church then."

Eugene's recollections were vivid as to the ending of the war:

"The Northern soldiers come to town playing Yankee Doodle. When freedom
come, they called all the white people to the courthouse first, and told
them the darkies was free. Then on a certain day they called all the
colored people down to the parade ground. They had built a big stand,
and the Yankees and some of our leading colored men got up and spoke,
and told the Negroes:

"You are free now. Don't steal. Now work and make a living. Do honest
work, make an honest living to support yourself and children. No more
masters. You are free."

Eugene said when the colored troops come in, they sang:

  "Don't you see the lightning?
   Don't you hear the thunder?
   It isn't the lightning,
   It isn't the thunder,
   But its the button on
   The Negro uniforms!

"The slaves that was freed, and the country Negroes that had been run
off, or had run away from the plantations, was staying in Augusta in
Guv'ment houses, great big ole barns. They would all get free provisions
from the Freedmen's Bureau, but people like us, Augusta citizens, didn't
get free provisions, we had to work. It spoiled some of them. When the
small pox come, they died like hogs, all over Broad Street and


[TR: "Uncle Willis" in individual interviews.]

"Uncle Willis" lives with his daughter Rena Berrian, who is 74 years
old. "I his baby," said Rena, "all dead but me, and I ain't no good for
him now 'cause I can't tote nothin'."

When asked where Uncle Willis was, Rena looked out over the blazing
cotton field and called:

"Pap! Oh--pappy! Stop pickin' cotton and come in awhile. Dey's some
ladies wants to see you."

Uncle Willis hobbled slowly to the cabin, set in the middle of the
cotton patch. He wore clean blue overalls, obviously new. His small,
regular features had high cheekbones. There was a tuft of curly white
hair on his chin, and his head was covered with a "sundown" hat.

"Mawnin," he said, "I bin sick. So I thought I might git some cotton

Willis thinks he is 101 years old. He said, "I was 35 years old when
freedom delcared." He belonged to Dr. Balding Miller, who lived on Rock
Creek plantation. Dr. Miller had three or four plantations, Willis said
at first, but later stated that the good doctor had five or six places,
all in Burke County.

"I wuk in de fiel'," he went on, "and I drove de doctor thirty years. He
owned 300 slaves. I never went to school a day in my life, 'cept Sunday
school, but I tuk de doctor's sons fo' miles ev'y day to school. Guess
he had so much business in hand he thought the chillun could walk. I
used to sit down on de school steps 'till dey turn out. I got way up in
de alphabet by listenin', but when I went to courtin' I forgot all dat."

Asked what his regular duties were, Willis answered with pride:

"Marster had a cay'age and a buggy too. My father driv' de cay'age and I
driv de doctor. Sometimes I was fixing to go to bed, and had to hitch up
my horse and go five or six miles. I had a regular saddle horse, two
pairs for cay'age. Doctor were a rich man. Richest man in Burke County.
He made his money on his farm. When summertime come, I went wid him to
Bath, wheh he had a house on Tena Hill. We driv' down in de cay'age.
Sundays we went to church when Dr. Goulding preach. De darkies went in
de side do'. I hear him preach many times."

Asked about living conditions on Rock Creek plantation, Willis replied:

"De big house was set in ahalf acre yard. 'Bout fifty yards on one side
was my house, and fifty yards on de udder side was de house of granny, a
woman that tended de chillun and had charge of de yard when we went to
Bath," Willis gestured behind him, "and back yonder was de quarters, a
half mile long; dey wuz one room 'crost, and some had shed room. When
any of 'em got sick, Marster would go round to see 'em all."

Asked about church and Bible study, Willis said:

"I belongst to Hopeful Church. Church people would have singin' and
prayin', and de wicked would have dancin' and singin'. At dat time I was
a regular dancer" Willis chuckled. "I cut de pigeon wing high enough!
Not many cullud people know de Bible in slavery time. We had dances, and
prayers and sing too," he went on, "and we sang a song, 'On Jordan's
stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye.'"

"How about marriages?" he was asked.

"Colored preacher marry 'em. You had to get license and give it to the
preacher, and he marry 'em. Then de men on our plantation had wives on
udder plantations, dey call 'em broad wives."

"Did you give your wife presents when you were courting?" he was asked.

"I went to courtin' and never give her nuthin' till I marry her."

As to punishment, Willis said that slaves were whipped as they needed
it, and as a general rule the overseer did the whipping.

"When darky wouldn't take whippin' from de overseer," he said, he had to
cay'y dem to de boss; and if we needed any brushin' de marster brush
'em. Why, de darkies would whip de overseer!"

Willis was asked to describe how slaves earned money for personal use,
and replied:

"Dey made dey own money. In slavery time, if you wanted four or five
acres of land to plant anything on, marster give it to you, and whatever
dat land make, it belong to you. You could take dat money and spend it
any you wanted to. Still he give you somethin' to eat and clothe you,
but dat patch you mek cotton on, sometimes a whole bale, dat money

Willis thought the plantation house was still there, "but it badly
wounded," he said. "Dey tell me dere ain't nobody living in it now. It
seven miles from Waynesboro, south."

"When de soldiers come thoo'," continued Willis, "dey didn't burn dat
place, but dey went in dere and took out ev'thing dey want, and give it
to de cullud people. Dey kep' it till dey got free. De soldiers tuk Dr.
Millers horses and carry 'em off. Got in de crib and tuk de corn. Got in
de smoke'ouse and tuk de meat out. Old Marssa bury his money and silver
in a iron chist. Dey tuk it 300 yards away to a clump of trees and bury
it. It tuk fo' men to ca'y it. Dere was money without mention in dat
chist! After de soldiers pass thoo, de went down and got it back."

"What did you do after freedom was declared?"

Willis straightened up.

"I went down to Augusta to de Freedmen's Bureau to see if twas true we
wuz free. I reckon dere was, over a hundred people dere. The man got up
and stated to de people, "you is jus' as free as I am. You ain't got no
mistis and no marster. Work wheh you want." On Sunday morning old
Marster sent de house girl and tell us to all come to de house. He said:

"What I want to send for you all, is to tell you you are free. You hab
de privilege to go anywhere you want, but I don't want none of you to
leave me now. I wants you-all to stay right wid me. If you stay, you you
mus' sign to it' I asked him: "What you want me to sign for?, I is
free." 'Dat will hold me to my word, and hold you to yo' word,' he say.
All my folks sign it, but I wouldn't sign. Marster call me up and say:
'Willis, why wouldn't you sign?' I say: 'If I already is free, I don't
need to sign no paper. If I was working for you, and doing for you befo'
I got free, I can do it still, if you want me to stay wid yo'.' My
father and mother tried to git me to sign, but I wouldn't sign. My
mother said: 'You oughter sign. How you know Marster gwine pay?' I said:
'Den I kin go somewhere else.' Marster pay first class hands $15.00 a
month, other hands $10.00, and den on down to five and six dollars. He
give rations like dey always. When Christmas come, all come up to be
paid off. Den he call me. Ask whar is me? I wus standin' roun' de corner
of de house. 'Come up here,' he say, 'you didn't sign dat paper, but I
reckon I have to pay you too.' He paid me and my wife $180.000. I said:
'Well, you-all thought he wouldn't pay me, but I got my money too.' I
stayed to my marster's place one year after de war den I lef'dere. Nex'
year I decided I wuld quit dere and go somewhere else. It was on account
of my wife. You see, Marster bought her off, as de highes', and she
hadn't seen her mother and father in Waynesboro for 15 years.

When she got free, she went down to see 'em. Waren't willin' to come
back. T'was on account Mistis and her. Dey bofe had chilluns, five-six
years old. De chillun had disagreement. Mistis slap my girl. My wife
sass de Mistis. But my marster, he was as good a man as ever born. I
wouldn't have lef' him for anybody, just on account of his wife and her
fell out."

"What did your marster say when you told him you were going to leave?
Was he sorry?"

"I quit and goes over three miles to another widow lady house, and mek
bargain wid her," said Willis. "I pass right by de do'. Old boss sitting
on de pi-za. He say: 'Hey, boy, wheh you gwine?' I say; 'I 'cided to
go.' I was de fo'man of de plow-han' den. I saw to all de locking up,
and things like dat. He say: 'Hold on dere.' He come out to de gate. 'I
tell you what I give you to stay on here, I give you five acre of as
good land as I got, and $30.00 a month, to stay here and see to my

Willis paused a moment, thinking back on that long distant parting.

"I say," he went on, "I can't, Marster. It don't suit my wife 'round
here, and she won't come back, and I can't stay.' He turn on me den, and
busted out crying. 'I didn't tho't I could raise up a darky that would
talk thataway,' he said to me. Well, I went on off. I got de wagon and
come by de house. Marster says: 'Now you gwone off, but don't forget me,
boy. Remember me as you always done.' I said: 'All right.'"

Willis chewed his tobacco reflectively for a few minutes, spat into the
rosemary bush, and resumed his story:

"I went over to dat widow lady's house and work. Along about May I got
sick. She say: 'I going to send for de doctor.' I said: 'Please ma'am,
don't do dat.' I thought maybe he kill me 'cause I lef' him. She say:
'Well, I gwine send fo' him.' I in desprut condition. When I know
anything, he walk up in de do'. I was laying wid my face toward de do'
and I turn over.

"Doctor come up to de bed. 'Boy, how you getting on?' 'I bad off,' I
say. He say: 'I see you is. 'yeh.' Lady say: 'Doctor, what you think of
him?' 'Mistis, it mos' too late,' he say, 'but I do all I kin.' She say:
'Please do all yo' kin, he 'bout de bes' han' I got.'

"Doctor fix up med'cine and tole her to give it to me. She say: 'Uncle
Will, tek dis med'cine.' I 'fraid to tek it, 'fraid he wuz tryin' to
kill me. Den two men, John and Charles, come in. Lady say: 'Get dis
med'cine in Uncle Will.' One of de men hold my hand, one hold my head,
and dey gagged me and put it in me. Nex few days I kin talk, and ax for
somethin' to eat, so I git better. I say: 'Well, he didn't kill me when
I tuk de Med'cine.'

"I stayed dere wid her. Nex' yar I move right back in two miles other
side wheh I always live, wid anudder lady. I stay dere three years. Got
along all right. When I lef' from there, I lef' dere wid $300.00 and
plenty corn and hog. Everything I want, and three hundred dollars cash
in my pocket!"

(It was plain that in his present status of relief ward, Uncle Willis
looked back on that sum of money as a small fortune. He thought about it
awhile, spat again, and went on:)

"Fourth year I lef' and went down to de John Fryer place on Rock Creek.
I stayed dere 33 years in dat one place."

"Uncle Willis, did you ever see the doctor again?"

"He die 'fore I know it," he replied, "I was 'bout fifteen miles from
him and be de time I hear of his death, he bury on plantation near Rock

Willis was asked about superstitions, and answered with great

"Eberybody in de worl' have got a spirit what follow 'em roun' and dey
kin see diffrunt things. In my sleep I hab vision."

"Pappy, tell de ladies 'bout de hant," urged Aunt Rena from her post in
the doorway, and Willis took up the story with eagerness:

"One night I was gwine to a lady's store, riding a horse. De graveyard
was 100 yards from de road I wuz passing. De moon was shining bright as
day. I saw somethin' coming out of dat graveyard. It come across de
road, right befo' me. His tail were dragging on de ground, a long tail.
He had hair on both sides of him, laying down on de road. He crep' up. I
pull de horse dis way, he move too. I pull him dat way, he move too. I
yell out: 'What in de name o' God is dat?' And it turn right straight
'round de graveyard and went back. I went on to de lady's store, and
done my shoppin'. I tell you I was skeered, 'cause I was sho' I would
see it going back, but I never saw it. De horse was turrible skeered of
it. It looked like a Maryno sheep, and it had a long, swishy tail."

Uncle Willis was asked if he had ever seen a person "conjured" and he

"Dey is people in de worl' got sense to kill out de conjur in anybody,
but nobuddy ever conjur me. I year 'um say if a person conjur you,
you'll git somethin' in you dat would kill you."

Asked to what he attributed his long, healthy life, he raised his head
with a preaching look and replied:

"I tell you, Missis, 'zactly what I believe. I bin tryin' to serve God
ever since I come to be a man of family. I bin trying to serve de Lawd
79 years, and I live by precepts of de word. Until today nobuddy can
turn me away from God business. I am a man studying my gospel. I ain't
able to go to church, but I still keep serving God."

A week later Uncle Willis was found standing in the cabin door.

"Do you want to ride to the old plantation to-day?" he was asked. His
vitality was almost too low form to grasp the invitation.

"I'se might weak today," he said in a feeble voice. "I don't feel good
for much."

"Where is Aunt Rena?" he was asked. "Do you think she would mind your
taking an automobile trip?"

"She gone to town on de bus, to see de Fambly Welfare."

"Have you had breakfast?" His weak appearance indicated lack of food.

"I had some coffee, but I ain't eat 'none."

"Well, come on, Uncle Willis. We'll get you some breakfast, and then
we'll take you to the plantation and take your picture in the place
where you were born 101 years ago."

Uncle Willis appeared to be somewhat in a daze as he padlocked the cabin
door, put on his "sundown" hat, took up his stout stick and tottered
down the steps. He wore a frayed sweater, with several layers of shirts
showing at the cuffs. On the way he recalled the first railroad train
that passed through Burke County.

"I kinder scared," he recollected, "we wuz all 'mazed to see dat train
flyin' long 'thout any horses. De people wuz all afraid."

"Had you hear of airplanes before you saw one, Uncle Willis?"

"Yes, ma'am. I yeared o' them, but you couldn't gimme dis car full of
money to fly, they's too high off de ground. I never is gwine in one."

Uncle Willis was deposited on the porch of one of the remaining slave
cabins to eat his "brekkus," while his kidnappers sought over hill and
field for "the big house," but only two cabins and the chimney
foundation of a large burned dwelling rewarded the search.

He was posed in front of the cabin, just in front of the clay and brick
end chimney, and took great pleasure in the ceremony, rearing his head
up straight so that his white beard stuck out.

The brutal reality of finding the glories of Rock Creek plantation
forever vanished must have been a severe blow for the old man, for
several times on the way back he wiped tears from his eyes. Once again
at his cabin in the cotton field, his vitality reasserted itself, and he
greeted his curious dusky neighbors with the proud statement:

"Dey tuk me wheh I was bred and born. I don't ax no better time."

His farewell words were:

"Goo'bye. I hopes you all gits to Paradise."


Interviews obtained from:
MRS. ROSA MILLEGAN, 231 Chestnut Ave. NE
MR. JASPER MILLEGAN, 231 Chestnut Ave. NE
Atlanta, Ga.
[Date Stamp: MAY 12 1937]


Mrs. Emmaline Heard, who resides at 239 Cain St. NE has proved to be a
regular storehouse for conjure and ghost stories. Not only this but she
is a firm believer in the practice of conjure. To back up her belief in
conjure is her appearance. She is a dark brown-skinned woman of medium
height and always wears a dirty towel on her head. The towel which was
at one time white gives her the weird look of an old-time fortune

Tuesday, December 8, 1936 a visit was made to her home and the following
information was secured:

"There wuz onct a house in McDonough and it wuz owned by the Smiths that
wuz slave owners way back yonder. Now, this is the trufe cause it wuz
told ter me by old Uncle Joe Turner and he 'spirience it. Nobody could
live in this house I don't care how they tried. Dey say this house wuz
hanted and anybody that tried to stay there wuz pulled out of bed by a
hant. Well, sir, they offered the house and $1,000 to anyone who could
stay there over night. Uncle Joe said he decided to try it so sho nuff
he got ready one night and went ter this house to stay. After while,
says he, something come in the room and started over ter the bed, but
fore it got there, he said, "What in the name of the Lord you want with
me." It said, 'follow me. There is a pot of gold buried near the
chimney; go find it and you won't be worried with me no more.' Der next
morning Uncle Joe went out there and begin ter dig and sho nuff he found
the gold; and sides that he got the house. Dis here is the trufe. Uncle
Joe's house is right there in McDonough now and anybody round there will
tell you the same thing cause he wuz well-known. Uncle Joe is dead now.

"Anudder story that happened during slavery time and wuz told ter me by
father wuz this; The master had a old man on his plantation named
Jimson. Well, Jimson's wife wuz sick and had been fer nearly a year. One
day there she wanted some peas, black eyed peas; but old man Harper
didn't have none on his plantation, so Jimson planned ter steal off that
night and go ter old Marse Daniel's farm, which wuz 4 miles from Marse
Harper's farm, and steal a few peas for his wife. Well, between midnight
and day he got a sack and started off down the road. Long after while a
owl started hootin, sho-o-o are-e-e, who-o-o-o-, and it wounded jest lak
someone saying 'who are you.' Jimson got scared, pulled off his cap and
run all the way to old man Daniel's farm. As he run he wuz saying, "Sir,
dis is me, old Jimson" over and over again. Now, when he got near the
farm Old Daniel heard him and got up in the loft ter watch him. Finally
old Jimson got dar and started creeping up in the loft. When he got up
dar, chile, Marse Daniel grabbed his whip and 'most beat Jimson ter

"This here story happened in Mississippi years ago, but den folks that
tell it ter me said it wuz the trufe. 'There wuz a woman that wuz sick;
her name wuz Mary Jones. Well, she lingered and lingered till she
finally died. In them days folks all around would come ter the settin-up
if somebody wuz dead. They done sent some men after the casket. Since
they had ter go 30 miles they wuz a good while getting back, so the
folkses decided ter sing. After while they heard the men come up on the
porch and somebody got up ter let 'em in. Chile, jest as they opened the
door that 'oman set straight up on that bed; and sech another runnin and
getting out of that house you never heard; but some folks realized she
wuzn't dead so they got the casket out der way so she wouldn't see it,
cause they wuz fraid she would pass out sho nuff; jest the same they wuz
fraid of her, too. The man went off and come back with postols, guns,
sticks, and everything; and when this 'oman saw 'em she said, 'don't
run, I won't bother you.' but, chile, they left there in a big hurry,
too. Well, this here Mary went to her sister's house and knocked on the
door, and said: 'Let me in. This is Mary. I want to talk to you and tell
you where I've been.' The sister's husband opened the door and let her
in. This 'oman told 'em that God had brought her to and that she had
been in a trance with the Lord. After that every one wuz always afraid
of that 'oman and they wouldn't even sit next ter her in the church.
They say she is still living.

"This happened right yonder in McDonough years ago. A gal went to a party
with her sweet'art and her ma told her not ter go. Well, she went on
anyhow in a buggy; when they got ter the railroad crossing a train hit
the buggy and killed the gal, but the boy didn't git hurted at all.
Well, while they wuz sittin up with this dead gal, the boy comes long
there in his buggy with anudder gal, and do you know that horse stopped
right in front uv that house and wouldn't budge one inch. No matter how
hard he whip that horse it wouldn't move; instid he rared and kicked and
jumped about and almost turned the buggy over. The gal in the buggy
fainted. Finally a old slavery time man come along and told him to git a
quart of whiskey and pour it around the buggy and the hant would go
away. So they done that and the sperit let 'em pass. If a hant laked
whisky in they lifetime, and you pour it round where they's at, they
will go away."

The following are true conjure stories supposedly witnessed by Mrs.
Heard: "There wuz a Rev. Dennis that lived below the Federal Prison.
Now, he wuz the preacher of the Hardshell Baptist Church in this
community. This man stayed sick about a year and kept gittin different
doctors and none uv them did him any good. Well, his wife kept on at him
till he decided ter go ter see Dr. Geech. His complaint wuz that he felt
something run up his legs ter his thighs. Old Dr. Geech told him that he
had snakes in his body and they wuz put there by the lady he had been
going wid. Dr. Geech give him some medicine ter take and told him that
on the 7th day from then that 'oman would come and take the medicine off
the shelf and throw it away. Course Rev. Dennis didn't believe a thing
he said, so sho nuff she come jest lak Dr. Geech said and took the
medicine away. Dr. Geech told him that he would die when the snakes got
up in his arm, but if he would do lak he told him he would get all
right. Dis 'oman had put this stuff in some whiskey and he drunk it so
the snakes breed in his body. After he quit taking the medicine he got
bad off and had ter stay in the bed; sho nuff the morning he died you
could see the snake in his arm; the print uv it wuz there when he died.
The snake stretched out in his arm and died, too.

"I got a son named Jack Heard. Well, somebody fixed him. I wuz in
Chicago when that happened and my daughter kept writing ter me ter come
home cause Jack wuz acting funny and she thought maybe he wuz losing his
mind. They wuz living in Thomasville then and every day he would go sit
round the store and laugh and talk, but jest as soon as night would come
and he would eat his supper them fits would come on him. He would squeal
jest lak a pig and he would get down on his knees and bark jest lak a
dog. Well, I come home and went ter see a old conjure doctor. He says
ter me, 'that boy is hurt and when you go home you look in the corner of
the mattress and you will find it. 'Sho nuff I went home and looked in
the corner of the mattress and there the package wuz. It wuz a mixture
of his hair and bluestone wrapped up in red flannel with new needles
running all through it. When I went back he says ter me, 'Emmaline, have
you got 8 dimes?' No, I said, but I got a dollar. 'Well, get that dollar
changed into 10 dimes and take 8 of 'em and give 'em ter me. Then he
took Jack in a room, took off his clothes and started ter rubbin him
down with medicine; all at the same time he wuz saying a ceremony over
him; then he took them 8 dimes, put 'em in a bag and tied them around
Jack's chest somewhere so that they would hang over his heart. 'Now,
wear them always,' says he ter Jack. Jack wore them dimes a long time
but he finally drunk 'em up anyway, that doctor cured him cause he sho
would a died."

The following aroma [HW: is a] few facts as related by Mrs. Heard
concerning an old conjure doctor known as Aunt Barkas [TR: Darkas
throughout rest of story].

"Aunt Darkas lived in McDonough, Ga. until a few years ago. She died
when she wuz 128 years old; but, chile, lemme tell you that 'oman knowed
just what ter do fer you. She wuz blind but she could go ter the woods
and pick out any kind of root or herb she wanted. She always said the
Lord told her what roots to get and always fore sun-up you would see her
in the woods with a short handled pick. She said she had ter pick 'em
for sun-up; I don't know why. If you wuz sick all you had ter do wuz go
ter see Aunt Darkas and tell her. She had a well and after listening to
your complaint she would go out there and draw a bucket of water and set
it on the floor, and then she would wave her hand over it and say
something. She called this healing the water. After this she would give
you a drink of water. As she hand it ter you, she would say, 'now drink,
take this and drink.' Honey, I had some of that water myself and blieve
me it goes all over you and makes you feel so good. Old Aunt Darkas
would give you a supply of water and tell you ter come back fer more
when that wuz gone. Old Aunt Darkas said the Lord gave her power and
vision, and she used to fast for a week at a time. When she died there
wuz a piece in the paper bout her.

"This here is sho the trufe, and if you don't believe it, go out ter
Southview Cemetery and see Sid Heard, my oldest son; he been out there
over 20 years as sexton and bookkeeper. Yessir, he tole it ter me and I
believe it. This happen long ago, 10 or 15 years. There wuz a couple
that lived in Macon, Ga., but their home wuz in Atlanta and they had a
lot out ter Southview. Well, they had a young baby that tuck sick and
died so they had the baby's funeral there in Macon; then they put the
coffin in the box, placed the label on the box, then brought it ter
Atlanta. Folkes are always buried so that they head faces the east. They
say when Judgment Day come and Gabriel blow that trumpet everybody will
rise up facing the east. Well, as I wuz saying, they came here. Sid
Heard met 'em out yonder and instructed his men fer arrangements fer the
grave and everything. A few weeks later the 'oman called Sid Heard up
long distance. She said, 'Mr. Heard.' Yesmam, he said. 'I call you ter
tell you me and my husband can't rest at all.' 'Why?' he asked. 'Because
we can hear our baby crying every night and it is worrying us ter death.
Our neighbors next door say our baby must be buried wrong.' Sid Heard
said, Well, I buried the baby according ter the way you got the box
labeled. 'I am not blaming you, Mr. Heard, but if I pay you will you
take my baby up?' Yesmam, I will if you want me to; jest let me know the
day you will be here and I'll have everything ready. Alright, said she.

'Well,' said Sid Heard, 'the day she wuz ter come she wuz sick and
instead sent a car load of her friends. The men got busy and started
digging till they got ter the box; when they took it up sho nuff after
they opened it, they found the baby had been buried wrong; the head was
facing the west instead of the east. They turned the box around and
covered it up. The folks then went on back to Macon. A week later the
'omen called up again. 'Mr. Heard,' she says. Yesmam, says he. 'Well, I
haven't heard my baby cry at all in the past week. I wuzn't there but I
know the exact date you took my baby up, cause I never heard it cry no


On December 10, 1936 Mr. and Mrs. Millegan who reside at 231 Chestnut
Ave. NE. were interviewed on the subject of superstitions, signs,
conjure, etc. Mrs. Rosa Millegan studied awhile after the facts of the
interview were made clear to her. Finally she said; "I kin tell you more
bout conjure; that's all I know bout cause I done been hurted myself and
every word of it is the trufe.

"Well, it happen lak this. I wuz suffering with rheumatism in my arm and
a old man in the neighborhood came ter me and gave me some medicine that
he said would help me. Well, I done suffered so I thought mebbe it might
help me a little. Chile honey, 'after I done tuck some of that stuff I
nearly went crazy. I couldn't talk; couldn't hardly move and my head
look lak it bust open. I didn't know what ter do. I called medical
doctors and they jest didn't do me no good. Let me tell you right here,
when you done been conjured, medical doctors can't do you no good; you
got ter get a nudder conjur doctor ter get it off you. Well, one day I
says to my daughter, "I'm through wid medical doctors. I'm gwine ter Sam
Durham. They say he is good and I go find out. Chile, folks done give me
up ter die. I use ter lay in bed and hear 'em say, she won't never get
up. Well, I went ter Sam Durham and he looked at me and said: 'You is
hurt in the mouth.' He carried me in a small room, put some medicine
around my face, and told me ter sit down a while. After while my mouth
and face begin ter feel lak it wuz paralyzed, and he begin ter talk.
'That man that give you that medicine is mad wid you about his wife and
he fixed you. Now do what I tell you and you will overcome it. He is
coming ter your door and is gwine want ter shake your hand. Don't let
him touch you, but speak ter him in the name of the Lord and throw your
hands over your head; by doing this you will overcome him and the
devil.' Anudder thing he says; 'This man is coming from around the back
of your house.' Then he give me 5 vials of different lengths and a half
cup of pills, and told me ter take all that medicine. He told me too ter
get a rooster and let him stay on my porch all the time and he couldn't
get ter me no more. Sho nuff, that nigger come jest lak he said he wuz
going ter do, but I fixed him. Later on this same man tried ter fix his
wife cause he thought she had anudder man. Do you know that oman
couldn't drink water in her house? and when he died he wuz nearly crazy;
they had ter strap him in the bed; all the while he wuz cussin God and

The next stories were told to the writer by Mr. Jasper Millegan:

"My uncle wuz poisoned. Yes, sir, somebody fixed him in coffee. He
lingered and lingered and finally got so he wuz confined ter bed fer
good. Somebody put scorpions in him and whenever they would crawl under
his skin he would nearly go crazy, and it looked lak his eyes would jest
pop out. He waited so long ter go ter the conjure doctors they couldn't
do him any good. And the medical doctors ain't no good fer nothing lak
that. Yes, sir, them snakes would start in his feet and run up his leg.
He nebber did get any better and he died.

"A long time ago I saw a lady that wuz conjured in her feet; somebody
put something down fer her ter walk over. Well, anyway she got down with
her feet and couldn't travel from her bed ter a chair. Well, she got a
old conjure doctor ter come treat her and he rubbed her feet with
medicine and after he done that a while he told her that something wuz
coming out of her feet. Sho nuff, I see'd them maggots with my own eyes
when they come out of her feet; but she got well."

The following are preventatives to use against conjure; also a few home
treatments for different sickness.

"Ter keep from being conjured, always use plenty salt and pepper. Always
get up soon in the morning so nobody can see you and sprinkle salt and
pepper around your door and they sho can't git at you.

"If you think you done been poisoned or conjured, take a bitter gourd
and remove the seeds, then beat 'em up and make a tea. You sho will
heave all of it up.

"Ef you think you will have a stroke, go to running water and get four
flint rocks; heat 'em and lay on all of them, and believe me, it will
start your blood circulating and prevent the stroke. Another way to
start your blood circulating; heat a brick and (lay) lie on it.

"To get rid of corns, bathe your feet in salt water and take a little
salt and put it 'tween your toes."

Mrs. Millegan closed her interview by telling the writer that every
morning found her sprinkling her salt and pepper, cause she knows what
it means ter be fixed. As the writer started out the door she noticed a
horse shoe hanging over the door.

Minnie B. Ross


On November 24, 1936 Mrs. Camilla Jackson was interviewed concerning
superstitions, signs, etc. Mrs. Jackson, an ex-slave, is about 80 years
of age and although advanced in years she is unusually intelligent in
her speech and thoughts. The writer was well acquainted with her having
previously interviewed her concerning life as a slave.

Mrs. Jackson related to the writer the following signs and incidents:

If a tree is standing in your yard or near your house and an owl lights
in it and begins to hoot, some one in the family will die.

If, during the illness of a person, a cat comes in the room, or the
house, and whines, the person will die.

Another sure sign of death and one that has been experienced by Mrs.
Jackson is as follows: Listen child if a bird flies in your house some
one is going to die. My daughter and I were ironing one day and a bird
flew in the window right over her head. She looked up and said, "mama
that bird came after me or you, but I believe it came for me." One month
later my daughter took sick with pneumonia and died.

My mother said before the Civil War ended her mistress owned an old
slave woman 100 years old. This old woman was very wicked and the old
miss used to visit her cabin and read the Bible to her. Well sir, she
died and do you know the horses balked and would go every way but the
right way to the grave. They rared and kicked and would turn straight
around in the road 'cause the evil spirits were frightening them. It was
a long time before they could get the body to the grave.

Mrs. Jackson before relating the following experiences emphatically
stated her belief in seeing the dead but only believes that you can see
them in a dream.

"Many a night my sister has come to me all dressed in white. I have
heard her call me too; but I have never answered. No longer than one
night last week old Mr. and Mrs. Tanner came to me in a dream. The old
lady came in my room and stood over my bed. Her hair was done up on the
top of her head just like she always wore it. She was distressed and
spoke about some one being after her. Old Mr. Tanner came and led her
away. They really were in my room, you see both of them died in this
house years ago."

Mrs. Jackson could not relate any stories of conjuring; but did mention
the fact that she had often heard of people wearing money around their
legs to keep from being conjured. She also spoke of people keeping a
horseshoe over the door for good luck.

During slavery and since that time, if you should go out doors on a
drizzling night for any thing, before you could get back Jack O'lantern
would grab you and carry you to the swamps. If you hollowed and some one
bring a torch to the door the Jack O'lantern would turn you aloose.
Another way to get rid of them is to turn your pockets wrong side out.

One day a man came here selling roots called "John the Conqueror" and
sister Blakely there, paid him 10¢ for one of the plants, but she never
did plant it. He said the plant would bring good luck.


On the same day Mrs. Jackson was interviewed, Mrs. Anna Grant told the
writer that if she didn't mind she would relate to her a ghost story
that was supposed to be true. In her own words the writer gives the
following story:

Onst a 'oman, her husband and two chillun wuz travelin'. This 'oman wuz
a preacher and only wanted to stop over night. Now this 'oman's husban'
wuz a sinner, but she wuz a christian. Well she saw an old empty house
setting in a field but when she went ter inquire 'bout it she wuz told
that it wuz hanted and no one had ebber been able ter stay there over
night. De lady dat owned de house offered her pillows, bed clothes,
sheets, etc., if she intended to stay, and even told her that she would
give her de house if she could stay there. The woman that owned the
house told her butler to go and make a fire for the family and carry the
pillows, sheets, etc. Well, they all got there the 'oman built a fire,
cooked supper and fed 'em all. Her husband and children went ter bed.
The husband wanted to know why his wife wanted him to go to bed and she
wanted ter stay up. The wife didn't say nothin', just told him ter go to
bed, then she laid the Bible on the table bottom side up and kept
looking behind her. The house wuz two story and after while something
came ter the top steps and said, "Can I throw down," she said "throw
down in the name of the father, son and Holy Ghost." Two thighs and a
foot came down. Later the same voice sed, "Can I throw down," and she
said, "throw down in the name of the father, son and the Holy Ghost,"
and then a whole body came down. The husband woke up when he heard the
noise and ran away from the house. The ghost told the 'oman ter follow
her, and she picked up her Bible and kept on reading and went on behind
the ghost. The ghost showed her where some money was buried near a big
oak tree and then vanished. The next morning the 'oman dug and found der
money, but the 'oman of the house wouldn't take a penny, said she didn't
want it, sides that she gave her the house. They said this wuz a true
story and der reason dat house wus hanted wuz 'cause der family dat used
to live there got killed about money. Mrs. Grant ended by saying "Deres
a horseshoe over my door right now for luck."


Mrs. Emmaline Heard lives on Cain St. between Fort and Butler Sts. She
is an ex-slave and on a previous occasion had given the writer an
interesting account of slavery as she knew it. When the writer
approached her concerning superstitious signs, ghost tales, conjure
etc., Mrs. Heard's face became lit with interest and quickly assured the
writer that she believed in conjuring, ghosts, and signs. It was not
long before our interview began. Mrs. Heard, although seventy or
seventy-five years old, is very intelligent in her expression of her
different thoughts. This interview, as nearly as possible, was taken in
the exact words of the person interviewed.

"If you are eating with a mouthful of food and sneeze, that sho is a
true sign of death. I know that 'cause years ago I wuz havin' breakfast
with my son Wylie and one other boy and Wylie sneezed and said "Mama I'm
so sorry I jist coundn't help it the sneeze came on me so quick." I jist
sat there and looked at him and began ter wonder. Two weeks later my
brother rode up and announced my mother's death. That is one sign thats
true, yes sir.

If a picture falls off the wall some one in the family will die.

If you dream about teeth, if one falls out thats another sign of death.

Another sign of death jest as sho as you live is ter dream of a person
naked. I dreamed my son was naked but his body was covered with hair.
Three months later he died. Yes sir, that sho is a true sign.

Jest as sho as your left hand itches you will receive money. If fire
pops on you from the stove, or fire place, you will get a letter.

If the left side of your nose itches a man is coming to the house. If it
itches on the tip, he will come riding.

If the right side of your nose itches a woman is coming to the house.

Following are stories told to Mrs. Heard by her parents, which took
place during the period of slavery. They are supposed to be true as they
were experienced by the persons who told them.

"My mother told me a story that happened when she was a slave. When her
mistress whipped her she would run away ter the woods; but at night she
would sneak back to nurse her babies. The plantation was on old
McDonough road, so ter get ter the plantation she had ter come by a
cemetery and you could see the white stones shining in the moonlight.
This cemetery was near a cut in the road that people said was hanted and
they still say old McDonough road is hanted. One night, mama said she
was on her way to the plantation walking on the middle of the road and
the moon was shining very bright. When she reached this cut she heard a
noise, Clack! Clack! Clack!, and this noise reminded a person of a lot
of machines moving. All at once a big thing as large as a house came
down the side of the road. She said it looked like a lot of chains,
wheels, posts all mangled together, and it seemed that there were more
wheels and chains than anything else. It kept on by making that noise,
clack! clack! clack!. She stood right still till it passed and came on
ter the farm. On her way back she say she didn't see it any more, but
right till ter day that spot is hanted. I have knowed horses to run away
right there with people and hurt them. Then sometimes they have rared
and kicked and turned to go in the other direction. You see, horses can
see hants sometimes when folks can't. Now the reason fer this cut being
hanted was because old Dave Copeland used to whip his slaves to death
and bury them along there."

The next story was told to Mrs. Heard by her father, who experienced it,
as a slave boy.

"My father sed when he wuz a boy him and two more boys run away from the
master 'cause the master whipped 'em. They set out and walked till it
got dark, and they saw a big old empty house settin' back from der road.
Now this house was 3 or 4 miles from any other house. So they went in
and made a fire, and laid down 'cause they wuz tired from running from
the Pader rollers. Soon they heard something say tap! tap! tap!, down
the stairs it came, a loud noise and then "Oh Lordy Master, I aint goin'
do it no more; let me off this time." After a while they heard this same
noise like a house falling in and the same words "Oh Lordy Master, I ant
goin' do it no more. Let me off this time." By this time they had got
good and scared, so my pa sed he and his friends looked at each other
and got up and ran away from that house jest as fast as they could go.
Nobody knowed why this old house wuz hanted; but they believed that some
slaves had been killed in it."

The next is a story of the Jack O'lantern as told by Mrs. Heard.

"Old South River on' the Jonesboro road is jest full of swampy land and
on a rainy drizzly night Jack O'lanterns will lead you. One night my
uncle started out ter see his girl end he had ter go through the woods
and the swamps. When he got in der swamp land he had ter cross a branch
and the night wuz dark and drizzly, so dark you could hardly see your
hand before your face. Way up the creek he saw a little bright light, so
he followed it thinking he wuz on his way. All night long he sed he
followed this light up and down the swamp, but never got near ter it.
When day came he was still in the creek and had not gone any distance at
all. He went home and told the folks and they went back ter the swamps
and saw his tracks up and down in the mud. Later a group of 'em set out
to find the Jack O'lantern and way down the creek they found it on a
bush. It looked like soot hanging down from a bush, burnt out. My uncle
went ter bed 'cause he wuz sleepy and tired down from walking all

The following three stories related by Mrs. Heard deals with practices
of conjure. She definitely states that they are true stories; and backs
up this statement by saying she is a firm believer in conjure.

"As I told you before, my daddy came from Virginia. He wuz bought there
by Old Harper and brought ter McDonough as a slave boy. Well as the
speculator drove along south, he learned who the different slaves were.
When he got here he wuz told by the master to live with old uncle Ned
'cause he wuz the only bachelor on the plantation. The master said ter
old Ned, "Well Ned, I have bought me a fine young plow boy. I want him
ter stay with you and you treat him right." Every night uncle Ned would
make a pallet on the floor for daddy and make him go to bed. When he got
in bed he (uncle Ned) would watch him out of the corner of his eye, but
daddy would pretend he wuz asleep and watch old uncle Ned to see what he
wuz going ter do. After a while uncle Ned would take a broom and sweep
the fireplace clean, then he would get a basket and take out of it a
whole lot of little bundles wrapped in white cloth. As he lay out a
package he would say "grass hoppers," "spiders", "scorpian," "snake
heads", etc., then he, would take the tongs and turn 'em around before
the blaze so that they would parch. Night after night he would do this
same thing until they had parched enough, then he would beat all of it
together and make a powder; then put it up in little bags. My daddy wuz
afraid ter ask old uncle Ned what he did with these bags, but heard he
conjured folks with 'em. In fact he did conjure a gal 'cause she
wouldn't pay him any attention. This gal wuz very young and preferred
talking to the younger men, but uncle Ned always tried ter hang around
her and help hoe, but she would always tell him to go do his own work
'cause she could do hers. One day he said ter her "All right madam, I'll
see you later, you wont notice me now but you'll wish you had. When the
dinner came, and they left the field they left their hoes standing so
they would know jest where ter start when they got back. When that gal
went back ter the field the minute she touched that hoe she fell dead.
Some folks say they saw uncle Ned dressing that hoe with conjure.

"My sister Lizzie sho did get fixed, honey, and it took a old conjurer
ter get the spell off of her. It wuz like this: Sister Lizzie had a
pretty peachtree and one limb spreaded out over the walk and jest as
soon as she would walk under this limb, she would stay sick all the
time. The funny part 'bout it wuz that while she wuz at other folks
house she would feel all right, but the minute she passed under this
limb, she would begin ter feel bad. One day she sent fer a conjurer, and
he looked under the house, and sho nuff, he found it stuck in the sill.
It looked like a bundle of rags, red flannel all stuck up with needles
and every thing else. This old conjurer told her that the tree had been
dressed for her an t'would be best fer her ter cut it down. It wuz a
pretty tree and she sho did hate to cut it down, but she did like he
told her. Yes child, I don't know whither I've ever been conjured or
not, but sometimes my head hurts and I wonder."

Mrs. Heard asked the writer to return at a later date and she would
probably be able to relate more interesting incidents.

Edwin Driscoll


The Negro folklore as recounted below was secured from the following
persons: Mrs. Julia Rush (an ex-slave) who lives at 878 Coleman Street,
S.W.; Mr. George Leonard (a very intelligent elderly person) whose
address is 148 Chestnut Avenue N.E.; and Mr. Henry Holmes (an ex-slave);
Mr. Ellis Strickland; Mr. Sam Stevens and a young boy known only as Joe.
The latter named people can be found at the address of 257 Old Wheat
Street, N.E. According to these people this lore represents the sort of
thing that their parents and grandparents believed in and at various
times they have been heard to tell about these beliefs.


Mr. Leonard says: "In dem days de old folks b'lieved in witch-craft and
conjure and sicha stuff like dat. Dey b'lieved dat an old person could
punish anybody by taking a piece of chip and spitting on it and den dey
would throw it on 'em. Dey said dat in two weeks time maggots would be
in 'em."

"I have seen 'em take a black cat an' put 'im in a sack an' den dey took
'im an' put 'im in a pot of boiling hot water alive. Man de cat would
almos' tear dat pot up tryin' to git out. After dey had cooked all de
meat off de cat dey took one of his bones (I don't know which one of
'em) and put it crossways in their front teeth while dey mumbled
somethin' under their breath an' den dey took dis bone an' throwed it
'cross de right shoulder an' when dey went an' picked it up an' put it
in their pocket it was supposed to give 'em de bes' kind of luck. Dey
could say or do anything dey wanted to an' ole marster couldn't hit

Regarding the Black cat's bone Mr. Strickland told the following story
which he says he once heard an old man tell his father:

"You goes out in de valley in de woods an' you takes a live black cat
an' throws 'im in a pot of boiling water. You boils 'im 'till he gits
done all to pieces an' den you takes all de bones an' throws 'em in de
creek an' de one dat floats up de creek is de one to use. You takes dis
bone an' draws it through your teech an' gits all de meat off an' den
you can take dat bone an' do all kinds of majic. You can talk to folks
an' dey can't see you. You can even disappear an' come right back. It
takes a good 'un to do dat (get a black cat's bone). While you's boilin'
de cat dat thunder an' lightnin' look like it goin' tear up de face of
de earth--you can even see de wind which is like a red blaze of fire."

Continuing Mr. Strickland says: "Some of de roots dat dey used to bring
'im luck an' to trick folks wid wuz Rattle-Snake Marster, and John de
Conquerer. John de Conquerer is supposed to conquer any kind of trouble
you gits intuh. Some folks says dat you can tote it in your pocket an'
have good luck.

"I once knowed a woman who had some lodestone dat she uster work. She
could take men an' dere wives apart an' den put 'em back together again.
She say dat she had killed so many folks (by the use of conjure and
majic etc.) dat she did'nt know whether she would ever git fit fer
forgiveness. She sold She sold herself to de devil fer twenty years."

"Aint nuthin wrong wid folks all de time when dey thinks dey is
tricked," says Mr. Strickland. "I had a friend named Joe once an' he
uster fool 'roun wid roots an' stuff like dat. One day he heard about a
man who had promised to pay five-hundred dollars to anybody dat could
cure him of de misery in his stomach. He thought somebody had "tricked"
him by puttin' a snake in 'im. Joe stayed wid 'im fer two days an' he
did'nt git no better an' so he went out de nex' day an' bought a rubber
snake an den he come back an' give de man some medecine to make 'im
vomit. When he comited Joe throwed de snake in de can an' den he said to
de man: "Dere it is, I knowed somebody had fixed you." De man said: "Dey
tol' me somebody had put a snake in me." Joe took de snake an' done away
wid it an' de nex' day de man wuz up walkin' 'roun. He never did know
how he had been fooled an' Joe made de five-hundred dollars."

According to Mrs. Rush the wife of the colored foreman on her master's
plantation was always working with roots. She says "One day I come in
fum de field to nurse my baby an' when I got to my house dere was dis
woman standing at my door." I said to her: "Name o' God Aunt Candis (dat
wus her name) whut is you doin'?" She wus makin' all kings of funny
motions when I come up on her. If you aint scared of 'em dey can't do
nuthin to you. When I hollored at her de sweat broke out on her face. By
dis time I had stayed away fum de field too long an' I knowed I wus
goin' to git a whippin' but Candis gimme some of de roots she had in her
mouth an'in her pockets. She tol' me to put piece of it in my mouth an'
chew it. When I got near de overseer I was to spit some of de juice
towars him an' I would'nt git a whippin'. I tied a piece of it 'roun my
waist an' put some in my trunk too. I did'nt git a whippin' when I got
to de field but when I went to look fer de root 'roun my waist it wus
gone. When I went back to de house dat night de other piece was gone
too. I aint seed it fum dat day to dis. De rest of de women on de
plantation honored Candis but I did'nt. Dey say dat folks like dem can
put stuff down fer you to walk in er set in or drink an' dat dey can fix
you lie dat. But dey can't do nuthin' wid you if you aint scared of

"Not so long ago a woman whut uster live back of me tried to do sumpin'
to me after we had a fuss. I woke up one mornin' an' looked out by my
back fence an' dere wus a lotsa salt an' sulphur an' stuff all 'roun de
yard. De other women wus scared fer me but I wus'nt."

Several of my informants say that salt can be used as a weapon of
conjure. According to Joe salt may be used to make a gambler lose all of
his money. To do this all that is necessary is to stand behind the
person to be conjured and then sprinkle a small amount of salt on his
back. From that instant on he will lose money. Joe has also seen a woman
use the following method to make her male friend remain at home: "She
taken some salt an' pepper an' sprinkled it up an' down de steps," says
Joe, "an' den she taken a plain eatin' fork an' stuck it under de door
steps an' de man stayed right in de house until she moved de fork."

Mr. Stevens says: "If you want to fix somebody all you got to do is to
sprinkle some salt an' petter 'roun 'em an' it'll make 'em bus' dere
brains out. If you wants to make 'em move you go out to de grave yard
an' stick your hand down in de middle of a grave an' git a handful of
dat red graveyard dirt an' den you comes back an' sprinkles it 'roun
dere door an' dey's gone, dey can't stay dere. Another conjuration is
fer a woman to make three waves over a man's head. I saw one do dat

Another method used to fix or conjure people, according to Mrs. Rush, is
to take a lizard and parch it. The remains must be put in something that
the person is to eat and when the food is eaten the individual will be
conjured. Mr. Holmes says if a black cat's tail is tied on someone's
doorknob it will "cut dey luck off."

Silver money tied around the leg will ward off the effects of conjure.
Mrs. Rush says if you are feeling ill and you wish to determine whether
or not someone has been trying to conjure you or not just take a silver
coin and place it in your mouth. If it turns black somebody is working
conjure on you. "I knowed a man who went to Newnan to see his mother who
wus sick," stated Mrs. Rush. "She wus so sick dat she could'nt tell whut
wus de matter wid her an' so her son took a silver quarter an' put it in
her mouth an' it turned as black as a kettle."

Says Mr. Holmes: "If anybody comes to your house an' you don't want 'em
dere, when dey leaves you take some salt an' throw it at 'em when dey
gits out of hearin' you cuss at 'em an' dey won't never come back

Following are some songs that used to be sung about conjure, etc.:


  "Mother, make my bed down
   I will freely lie down,
   Mother, make my bed down
   I will freely lie down"


  "Ransom, my son, what did she give you to eat?
   Ransom, my son, what did she give you to eat?


  "Red head (parched lizard) and speckle back
   Oh, make my bed down I will freely lie down."

  "I'm goin' to pizen (poison) you, I'm goin' to pizen you,
   I'm jus' sick an' tired of de way you do,
   I'm goin' to sprinkle spider legs 'roun yo' bed
   an' you gonna wake up in de mornin' an find yourself dead"

  "You beat me an' you kick me an' you black my eyes,
   I'm gonna take dis butcher knife an' hew you down to my size,
   You mark my words, my name is Lou,
   You mind out what I say, I'm goin' to pizen you."


  Mrs. Rush says that backache can be cured by rubbing a hot iron up and
  down the afflicted person's back.

  Asafetida tied around the neck will prevent smallpox.

  Risings can be cured by rubbing them with a poultice made from
  House-Leak root.

  To prevent a fall while walking from one side of a creek to the other on
  a log, place a small stick crosswise in the front-teeth and no mishap
  will result.

  Hold the mouth full of water while peeling onions and the onion juice
  will not get in the eyes.

  If a man wishes to make a woman fall in love with him all that he has to
  do is to take some of her hair, tie it up, and then throw it in running
  water. In a short while she will fall deeply in love with him.

  A man may also cause a woman to fall in love with him by letting her
  drink whiskey in which he has allowed "Gin-Root" to soak.

  If a woman wishes to make a man fall in love with her she has only to
  take the small bow usually found in the back of a man's cap on the
  sweatband, or the bow usually found on the band of the man's hat. After
  this has been secured it must be taken and worn under her clothes next
  to her body.


Mrs. Betty Brown of 74 Butler Street, N.E. says that when people die
angry with someone they usually come back after death in the form of a
witch and then they ride the person that they were angry with at the
time of their death.

According to Mr. Favors who lives at 78 Raymond Street, when a witch
rides anyone it is a sign that a man, a woman, or a dog, is after that

Mrs. Julia Rush says: "De old folks uster call witches hags. Dey wus
some kind of sperrits (spirits) an' dey would ride anybody. My
grandmother uster sleep wid de sissors under her pillow to keep 'em

"I once heerd a woman dat a witch come to a house one night an' took her
skin off an' went through de key hole. Somebody foun' de skin an'
sprinkled salt on it an' when de witch come out she could'nt git in de
skin an' she started saying: 'Skinny, Skinny, don't you know me?'"

Regarding witches Mr. Leonard made the following statement: "The old
folks b'lieved dat any house a person died in was "hainted" and dat de
dead person's spirit was a witch dat would come back at night. They used
to put a pan of salt on de corpse to keep it fum purgin' an' to keep de
witches away. They burned lamps all night long fer about three weeks
after de person was dead an' they sprinkled salt an' pepper 'roun too to
keep de witches away."

Another informant claims that if a person sleeps with his or her shoes
under the bed the witches are liable to ride him.

Mr. Strickland says that when the witches are riding anyone if that
person can say any three words of the Bible such as: "Lord have mercy,"
or "Jesus save me" the witch will stop riding.


Mr. Henry Holmes claims that he has seen the Jack O'Lantern and that at
one time he even followed it. He says: "One night me an' two more
fellows followed de Jack O'Lantern. It looked like a light in a house or
sumpin. We did'nt know where we wus until de nex' mornin' an' when we
did find ourselfs we wus at home. All de while we followed it it jus'
kep' goin' further an' further until it jus' vanished."

According to Mr. Leonard the Jack O'Lantern is a light that comes out of
the swamps at night and after getting in front of a person it will lead
him on and on. The old folks also used to think that the vapor seen
rising out of the swamps at night were ghosts. One night he and his
grandfather were walking down the railroad tracks when suddenly his
grandfather said: "Stand back dere George don't you see dat man walkin'
'long dere wid no head?" He says, however, that he himself failed to see
any such thing.

According to both Mrs. Brown and Mrs. [Rush?] people who are born with
cauls (a kind of a veil) over their eyes are able to see ghosts.


Mr. Leonard says that a young man wishing to accompany a young woman to
her home always spoke in the following manner: "Dear kind Miss, if you
have no objection of my being your protection, I'm going in your
direction." It was in this manner that he asked her to allow him to
escort her home.

For several years after freedom was declared it was the custom for the
bride and the groom to jump over the broom together before they were
pronounced man and wife.


The best time to hunt 'possums is on a cloudy night just before the
break of day. All of the big ones are out then Mr. Favors claims.



Written by:
Louise Oliphant
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia

Edited by:
John N. Booth,
District Supervisor,
Residencies 6 & 7,
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia


Richmond County's older colored citizens, particularly the few surviving
ex-slaves, are outspoken in their firm belief concerning powers of
conjurers and root workers.

"When it comes to conjuration, don't nobody know more 'bout that, and
there ain't nobody had as much of it done to 'em as I have," said a
wizened old woman. "I know nobody could stand what I have stood. The
first I knowed 'bout conjuration was when a woman named Lucinda hurt my
sister. She was always a 'big me,' and her chillun was better than
anybody elses. Well her oldest child got pregnant and that worried
Lucinda nearly to death. She thought everybody she seed was talkin'
'bout her child. One day she passed my sister and another 'oman standin'
on the street laughin' and talkin'. Lucinda was so worried 'bout her
daughter she thought they was laughin' at her. She got so mad she cussed
'em out right there and told 'em their 'turn was in the mill.' My sister
called the other 'oman in the house and shut the door to keep from
listenin' at her. That made it wuss.

"'Bout three weeks later my sister started complainin'. Us had two or
three doctors with her, but none of 'em done her any good. The more
doctors us got the wuss she got. Finally all of the doctors give her up
and told us there warn't nothin' they could do. After she had been sick
'bout two months she told us 'bout a strange man comin' to her house a
few days 'fore she took sick. She said he had been there three or four
times. She 'membered it when he come back after she took sick and
offered to do somethin' for her. The doctors hadn't done her no good and
she was just 'bout to let him doctor on her when this 'oman that was
with her the day Lucinda cussed 'em out told her he was Lucinda's great
uncle. She said that everybody called him the greatest root worker in
South Carolina. Then my sister thought 'bout how this man had come to
her house and asked for water every time. He wouldn't ever let her get
the water for him, he always went to the pump and got it hisself. After
he had pumped it off real cool he would always offer to get a bucket
full for her. She didn't think nothin' 'bout it and she would let him
fill her bucket. That's how he got her.

"She stayed sick a long time and Mamie stayed by her bed 'til she died.
I noticed Mamie wipin' her mouth every few minutes, so one day I asked
her what did she keep wipin' from my sister's mouth. She told me it
wasn't nothin' but spit. But I had got very anxious to know so I stood
by her head myself. Finally I seed what it was. Small spiders came
crawlin' out of her mouth and nose. Mamie thought it would skeer me,
that's why she didn't want me to know.

"That happened on Tuesday and that Friday when she died a small snake
come out of her forehead and stood straight up and stuck his tongue out
at us. A old man who was sittin' there with us caught the snake, put him
in a bottle, and kept him 'bout two weeks before he died.

"Don't think Lucinda didn't have pore Mamie conjured too. Mamie took
sick just one month after my sister died. After she found out the
doctors couldn't do her no good, she got a real good root worker to
doctor on her. He got her up and she stayed up for nearly a year before
Lucinda doubled the dose. That time pore Mamie couldn't git up. She
suffered and suffered before she died. But Lucinda got her pay for all
of it. When Mamie died Lucinda come to see her and said 'some folks was
better off dead anyhow'. Mamie's daughter started to jump on her but
some of the old folks wouldn't let her.

"Lucinda went a long time, but when she fell she sho' fell hard. She
almost went crazy. She stayed sick as long as my sister and Mamie put
together. She got so bad off 'til nobody couldn't even go in her house.
Everybody said she was reapin' what she sowed. She wouldn't even let her
own chillun come in the house. After she got so sick she couldn't get
off the bed she would cuss 'em and yell to the top of her voice 'til
they left. Nobody didn't feel sorry for her 'cause they knowed she had
done too much devilment.

"Just 'fore she died, Lucinda was so sick and everybody was talkin'
'bout it was such a shame for her to have to stay there by herself that
her youngest daughter and her husband went to live with her. Her
daughter was 'fraid to go by herself. When she died you could stand in
the street and hear her cussin' and yellin'. She kept sayin' 'take 'em
off of me, I ain't done nothin' to 'em. Tell 'em I didn't hurt 'em,
don't let 'em kill me.' And all of a sudden she would start cussin' God
and anybody she could think of. When she died it took four men to hold
her down in the bed."

"I've been sick so much 'til I can look at other folks when they're sick
and tell if its natural sickness or not. Once I seed my face always
looked like dirty dish water grease was on it every mornin' 'fore I
washed it. Then after I washed it in the places where the grease was
would be places that looked like fish scales. Then these places would
turn into sores. I went to three doctors and every one of 'em said it
was poison grease on my face. I knowed I hadn't put no kind of grease on
it, so I couldn't see where it was comin' from. Every time I told my
husband 'bout it he got mad, but I never paid too much 'tention to that.
Then one day I was tellin' a friend of mine 'bout it, and she told me my
husband must be doin' it. I wondered why he would do such a thing and
she said he was just 'bout jealous of me.

"The last doctor I went to give me somethin' to put on my face and it
really cleared the sores up. But I noticed my husband when my face got
clear and he really looked mad. He started grumblin' 'bout every little
thing, right or wrong. Then one day he brought me a black hen for
dinner. My mind told me not to eat the chicken so I told him I wanted to
keep the hen and he got mad 'bout that. 'Bout two or three days later I
noticed a big knot on the side of the chicken's head and it bursted
inside of that same week. The chicken started drooping 'round and in a
week's time that chicken was dead. You see that chicken was poison.

"After that my husband got so fussy I had to start sleepin' in another
room. I was still sick, so one day he brought me some medicine he said
he got from Dr. Traylor. I tried to take a dose 'cause I knowed if it
was from Dr. Traylor it was all right, but that medicine burnt me just
like lye. I didn't even try to take no more of it. I got some medicine
from the doctor myself and put it in the bottom of the sideboard. I took
'bout three doses out of it and it was doing me good, but when I started
to take the fourth dose it had lye in it and I had to throw it away. I
went and had the doctor to give me another bottle and I called myself
hidin' it, but after I took 'bout six doses, lye was put in it. Then one
day a friend of mine, who come from my husband's home, told me he was a
root worker and she thought I already knowed it. Well I knowed then how
he could find my medicine everytime I hid it. You see he didn't have to
do nothin' but run his cards. From then on I carried my medicine 'round
in my apron pocket.

"I started sleepin' in the kitchen on a cot 'cause his mother was usin'
the other room and I didn't want to sleep with her. Late at night he
would come to the window and blow somethin' in there to make me feel
real bad. Things can be blowed through the key hole too. I know 'cause I
have had it done to me. This kept up for 'bout a year and five or six
months. Then 'cause he seed he couldn't do just what he wanted to, he
told me to get out. I went 'cause I thought that might help me to git
out of my misery. But it didn't 'cause he come where I was every night.
He never did try to come in, but us would hear somebody stumblin' in the
yard and whenever us looked out to see who it was us always found it was
him. Us told him that us seed him out there, but he always denied it. He
does it right now or sometimes he gets other root workers to do it for
him. Whenever I go out in the yard my feet always feel like they are
twistin' over and I can't stop 'em; my legs and knees feel like
somethin' is drawin' 'em, and my head starts swimmin'. I know what's
wrong, it just what he had put down for me.

"When I get up in the mornin' I always have to put sulphur and salt and
pepper in my shoes to keep down the devilment he puts out for me. A man
who can do that kind of work give me somethin' to help me, but I was
s'posed to go back in six months and I ain't been back. That's why it's
started worryin' me again.

"My sister was conjured by openin' the door and eatin' afterwards
without washin' her hands," an 80-year old ex-slave remarked. "She had
just come home and opened her front door and went in the house to eat
before goin' to church. She et her supper and started to church with
another of my sisters. After she had gone 'bout two or three blocks she
started feelin' sick and walkin' as if she was drunk. My sister tried to
make her go back home but she wouldn't. When they got to church she
couldn't hardly get up the steps and they warn't in church over fifteen
minutes 'fore she had a stroke. Somebody took a car and carried her
home. She couldn't even speak for more than a week. The doctor come and
'xamined her, but he said he didn't see nothin' that would cause her to
have a stroke. He treated her for 'bout two weeks but she didn't get no
better. A friend told us to try a root worker. She said she knowed one
that was good on such things. Us was afraid at first, but after the
three doctors us had tried didn't seem to do her no good, us decided to
get the root worker.

"The root worker come that Wednesday mornin' and looked at her, but he
never touched her. He told us she had been hurt, but he could have her
on her feet in 'bout a week or ten days. He didn't give her no medicine,
and he never come back 'til after she was up and walkin' 'round. She got
up in 'bout seven days, and started talkin' earlier than that. The root
worker told her she had got conjured by puttin' her hands on somethin'
and eatin' without washin' 'em.

"She got along fine for 'bout three years, 'til one day she got home
from work and found her house open. She thought her son had gone out and
forgot to lock the door. When he come home he told her he had not been
back since he left that mornin'. She knowed she didn't forget to lock
it, so she guessed somebody had jus 'bout gone in through the window and
come out the door. But it was too late then 'cause she had et what was
left in the house and had drunk some water.

"That night she had her second stroke. Us sent for the same man who had
got her up before, but he said he doubted gettin' her up this time
'cause the person had made a good job of it by puttin' somethin' in her
water and t'eat. He treated her, and she got strong enough to sit up in
the house, but she soon had the third stroke and then he give her up.
She died 'bout two months later.

"I know you don't know how folks can really conjure you. I didn't at one
time, but I sho' learnt. Everytime somebody gets sick it ain't natchel
sickness. I have seed folks die with what the doctors called
consumption, and yet they didn't have it. I have seed people die with
heart trouble, and they didn't have it. Folks is havin' more strokes now
than ever but they ain't natchel. I have seed folks fixed so they would
bellow like a cow when they die, and I have seed 'em fixed so you have
to tie them down in bed to die. I've got so I hardly trust anybody."

Estella Jones thinks conjurers and root workers are much more skillful
now than formerly. "Folks don't kill you like they used to kill you.
They used to put most anythin' in you, but now they got so wise or
afraid that somebody will know zactly what killed you, 'til they do it
slick as a eel.

"Once a man named John tried to go with a girl but her step-pa, Willie,
run him away from the house just like he mought be a dog, so John made
it up in his mind to conjure Willie. He went to the spring and planted
somethin' in the mouth of it, and when Willie went there the next day to
get a drink he got the stuff in the water. A little while after he drunk
the water he started gettin' sick. He tried to stay up but every day he
got wuss and wuss 'til he got flat down in bed.

"In a few days somethin' started growin' in his throat. Every time they
tried to give him soup or anythin' to eat, somethin' would come crawlin'
up in his throat and choke him. That was what he had drunk in the
spring, and he couldn't eat nothin' or drink nothin'. Finally he got so
bad off he claimed somethin' was chokin' him to death, and so his wife
sont off and got a fortune teller. This fortune teller said it was a
turtle in his throat. He 'scribed the man that had conjured Willie but
everybody knowed John had done it 'fore the fortune teller told us. It
warn't long after that 'fore Willie was dead. That turtle come up in his
throat and choked him to death.

"Some folk don't believe me, but I ain't tellin' no tale 'bout it. I
have asked root workers to tell me how they does these things, and one
told me that it was easy for folks to put snakes, frogs, turtles,
spiders, or most anythin' that you couldn't live with crawlin' and
eatin' on the inside of you. He said these things was killed and put up
to dry and then beat up into dust like. If any of this dust is put in
somethin' you have to eat or drink, these things will come alive like
they was eggs hatchin' in you. Then the more they grow, the worse off
you get.

"My aun't son had took a girl away from another man who was going with
her too. As soon as this man heard they was going to marry, he started
studyin' some way to stop it. So he went to a root worker and got
somethin' and then went to this girl's house one night when he knew my
cousin was there. Finally when he got ready to leave, he was smart
enough to get my cousin to take a drink with him.

"That next mornin' the boy was feelin' a little bad, but he never paid
too much 'tention to it. Next day he felt a little wuss, and everyday
from then on he felt wuss and wuss 'til he got too sick to stay up. One
day a old lady who lived next door told us to try a root worker who
lived on Jones Street. This man came and told us what was wrong, but
said us had waited too long to send for him. He give us some thin' to
'lieve the boy of his misery. Us kept givin' this to him 'til he finally
got up. Course he warn't well by no means and this medicine didn't help
his stomach. His stomach got so big everybody would ask what was wrong.
He told everybody that asked him and some who didn't ask him 'bout the
frogs in his stomach. The bigger these frogs got, the weaker he got.

"After he had been sick 'bout four months and the frogs had got to be a
pretty good size, you could hear 'em holler everytime he opened his
mouth. He got to the place where he wouldn't talk much on account of
this. His stomach stuck out so far, he looked like he weighed 250

"After these frogs started hollerin' in him, he lived 'bout three weeks,
and 'fore he died you could see the frogs jumpin' 'bout in him and you
could even feel 'em.

"T'ain't no need talkin'; folks can do anythin' to you they wants to.
They can run you crazy or they can kill you. Don't you one time believe
that every pore pusson they has in the 'sylum is just natchelly crazy.
Some was run crazy on account of people not likin' 'em, some 'cause they
was gettin' 'long a little too good. Every time a pusson jumps in the
river don't think he was just tryin' to kill hisself; most times he just
didn't know what he was doin'.

"My daughter was fixed right here under our noses. She was married and
had five little chillun and she was the picture of health. But she had a
friend that she trusted too much and this friend was single and in love
with my daughter's husband. Diff'unt people told Liza 'bout this girl,
but she just didn't believe 'em. Every day this girl was at Liza's house
'til time for Lewis to git off from work. She helped Liza wash, clean
up, iron and cook, but she always left at the time for Lewis to git off
from work.

"This went on for more'n a year, but I kept tellin' Liza to ween off
from this girl 'cause I seed she didn't mean her no good. But Liza was
grown and nobody couldn't tell her nothin'. I think she had Liza fixed
so she would be crazy 'bout her. People can make you love 'em, even
marry 'em when if you was in your right mind you wouldn't give 'em a
thought. Anyhow Liza went on with the girl 'til one afternoon while she
was comin' from the store she seed Lewis and Edna goin' in a house
together. He come home 'bout three hours later, and when Liza asked him
why he was so late he told her they had to work late. He didn't know she
had seed him and she never told him.

"After this she started watchin' him and Edna, and she soon found out
what folks had been tellin' her was true. Still she never told Lewis
nothin' 'bout it. She told Edna 'bout seein' 'em and asked her to please
let Lewis alone. Edna made up some kind of s'cuse but she never let him
alone, and she kept goin' to Liza's house. When things finally went too
far, Liza spoke to Lewis 'bout it and asked him to leave Edna alone. He
did, but that made Edna mad and that's when she 'cided to kill Liza.
Lewis really loved Liza and would do anythin' she asked him to.

"One day Edna come to see Liza, after she had stayed away for 'bout
three weeks, and she was more lovin' than ever. She hung around 'til she
got a chance to put somethin' in the water bucket, then she left. People
can put somethin' in things for you and everybody else can eat or drink
it, but it won't hurt nobody but the one it's put there for. When Liza
drunk water, she said it tasted like it had salt-peter in it. When she
went to bed that night, she never got out 'til she was toted out. She
suffered and suffered and we never knowed what was wrong 'til Edna told
it herself. She took very sick and 'fore she died she told one of her
friends 'bout it and this friend told us, but it was too late then, Liza
was dead."



Written by:
Louise Oliphant
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia

Edited by:
John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia

Belief in charms and conjurs is still prevalent among many of Augusta's
older Negroes. Signs and omens also play an important part in their
lives, as do remedies and cures handed down by word of mouth from
generation to generation.

  If a wrestler can get dirt from the head of a fresh grave, sew it up
  in a sack, and tie it around his waist, no one can throw him.

  To make a person leave town, get some dirt out of one of his tracks,
  sew it up in a sack, and throw it in running water. The person will
  keep going as long as the water runs.

  To take a hair out of a person's head and put it in a live fishes
  mouth will make the person keep traveling as long as the fish

  If someone dies and comes back to worry you, nail some new lumber into
  your house and you won't be bothered any more.

  When the hands of a dead person remain limp, some other member of the
  family will soon follow him in death.

  When a spider builds a web in your house, you may expect a visitor the
  same color as the spider.

  A singing fire is a sign of snow.

  If a cat takes up at your house it's a sign of good luck; a dog--bad

  If a spark of fire pops on you, it is a sign that you will receive
  some money or a letter.

  To dream of muddy water, maggots, or fresh meat is a sign of death.
  To dream of caskets is also a sign of death. You may expect to hear
  of as many deaths as there are caskets in the dream.

  To dream of blood is a sign of trouble.

  To dream of fish is a sign of motherhood.

  To dream of eggs is a sign of trouble unless the eggs are broken. If
  the eggs are broken, your trouble is ended.

  To dream of snakes is a sign of enemies. If you kill the snakes, you
  have conquered your enemies.

  To dream of fire is a sign of danger.

  To dream of a funeral is a sign of a wedding.

  To dream of a wedding is a sign of a funeral.

  To dream of silver money is a sign of bad luck; bills--good luck.

  To dream of dead folk is a sign of rain.

  Wear a raw cotton string tied in nine knots around your waist to cure

  To stop nosebleed or hiccoughs cross two straws on top of your head.

  Lick the back of your hand and swallow nine times without stopping to
  cure hiccoughs.

  Tea made from rue is good for stomach worms.

  Corn shuck tea is good for measles; fodder tea for asthma.

  Goldenrod tea is good for chills and fever.

  Richet weed tea is good for a laxative.

  Tea made from parched egg shells or green coffee is good for

  Black snuff, alum, a piece of camphor, and red vaseline mixed together
  is a sure cure for piles.

  To rid yourself of a corn, grease it with a mixture of castor oil and
  kerosine and then soak the foot in warm water.

  Sulphur mixed with lard is good for bad blood.

  A cloth heated in melted tallow will give relief when applied to a
  pain in any part of the body.

  Take a pinch of sulphur in the mouth and drink water behind it to
  cleanse the blood.

  Dog fern is good for colds and fever; boneset tea will serve the same

  Catnip tea is good for measles or hives.

  If your right shoe comes unlaced, someone is saying good things about
  you; left shoe--bad things.

  If a chunk of fire falls from the fireplace a visitor is coming. If
  the chunk is short and large the person will be short and fat, etc.

  Don't buy new things for a sick person; if you do he will not live to
  wear it out.

  If a person who has money dies without telling where it is, a friend
  or relative can find it by going to his grave three nights in
  succession and throwing stones on it. On the fourth night he must go
  alone, and the person will tell him where the money is hidden.

  If a witch rides you, put a sifter under the bed and he will have to
  count the holes in the sifter before he goes out, thus giving you time
  to catch him.

  Starch your sweetheart's handkerchief and he will love you more.

  Don't give your sweetheart a knife. It will cut your love in two.

  If it rains while the sun is shining the devil is beating his wife.

  To bite your tongue while talking is a sign that you have told a lie.

  Persons with gaps between their front teeth are big liars.

  Cut your finger nails on Monday, you cut them for news;
  Cut them on Tuesday, get a new pair of shoes;
  Cut them on Wednesday, you cut them for wealth;
  Cut them on Thursday, you cut them for health;
  Cut them on Friday, you cut them for sorrow;
  Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow;
  Cut them on Sunday, its safety to seek;
  But the devil will have you the rest of the week.

  If you start some place and forget something don't turn around without
  making a cross mark and spitting in it, if you do you will have bad

  To stump your right foot is good luck, but to stump your left foot is
  bad luck. To prevent the bad luck you must turn around three times.

  It is bad luck for a black cat to cross you to the left, but good luck
  if he crosses you to the right.

  If a picture of a person falls off the wall it is a sign of death.

  To dream of crying is a sign of trouble.

  To dream of dancing is a sign of happiness.

  If you meet a gray horse pulling a load of hay, a red haired person
  will soon follow.

  If you are eating and drop something when you are about to put it in
  your mouth someone wishes it.

  If a child never sees his father he will make a good doctor.

  To dream that your teeth fall out is a sign of death in the family.

  To dream of a woman's death is a sign of some man's death.

  To dream of a man's death is the sign of some woman's death.

  If a chicken sings early in the morning a hawk will catch him before

  Always plant corn on the waste of the moon in order for it to yield
  a good crop. If planted on the growing of the moon there will be more
  stalk than corn.

  When there is a new moon, hold up anything you want and make a wish
  for it and you will get it.

  If you hear a voice call you and you are not sure it is really
  someone, don't answer because it may be your spirit, and if you answer
  it will be a sure sign of death.

  Cross eyed women are bad luck to other women, but cross eyed men are
  good luck to women and vice-versa for men.

  To wear a dime around your ankle will ward off witch craft.

  To put a silver dime in your mouth will determine whether or not you
  have been bewitched. If the dime turns black, someone has bewitched
  you, but if it keeps its color, no one has bewitched you.

  To take a strand of a person's hair and nail it in a tree will run
  that person crazy.

  If a rooster crows on your back steps you may look for a stranger.

  Chinaberries are good for wormy children.

  The top of a pine tree and the top of a cedar tree placed over a
  large coal of fire, just enough to make a good smoke, will cure
  chillblain feet.



Written by:
Louise Oliphant,
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia

Edited by:
John N. Booth,
District Supervisor,
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia

There are many ex-slaves living in Richmond County and Augusta who have
vivid recollections of the days when their lives were inseparably bound
to those of their masters. These people have a past rich in tradition
and sentiment, and their memories of customs, habits of work and play,
and the superstitious beliefs, which still govern their actions to a
large extent weave a colorful pattern in local history.

Mistreatment at the hands of their masters and the watchdog overseers is
outstanding in the memory of most of them. "When I was in slavery, us
had what you call good white folk. They warn't rich by no means, but
they was good. Us had rather have 'em poor and good than rich and mean.
Plenty of white folk mistreated they slaves, but ours never mistreated
us. They was a man lived in callin' distance, on the next plantation,
who worked his slaves day and night and on Sunday for a rarety. You
could hear 'em coming from the field about 12 o'clock at night, and they
had to be back in the fields by daylight. They couldn't get off on
Saturday nights like everbody else. Whenever he bought their clothes, it
was on Sunday when they warn't workin'. He was mean, but he was good
about buyin' for 'em, new shoes or a suit or anything of the like they
said they needed.

"Marster had overseers, but he wouldn't let 'em whip his slaves
unmerciful. They always whipped us just as your mamas whips you now.

"Bob Lampkin was the meanest slave owner I ever knowed. He would beat
his slaves and everybody else's he caught in the road. He was so mean
'til God let him freeze to death. He come to town and got drunk and when
he was going back home in his buggy, he froze stiff going up Race Creek
Hill. White and colored was glad when he died.

"His slaves used to run away whenever they got a chance. I 'member he
had a real pretty gal on his place. She was light brown and was built up
better than anybody I ever saw. One of the overseers was crazy about
her, but her mother had told her not to let any of 'em go with her. So
this old overseer would stick close 'round her when they was workin',
just so he could get a chance to say somethin' to her. He kept followin'
this child and followin' this child until she almost went crazy. Way
afterwhile she run away and come to our house and stayed 'bout three
days. When my marster found out she was there, he told her she would
have to go back, or at least she would have to leave his place. He
didn't want no trouble with nobody. When that child left us she stayed
in the woods until she got so hungry she just had to go back. This old
man was mad with her for leavin', and one day while she was in the field
he started at her again and when she told him flat footed she warn't
goin' with him he took the big end of his cow hide and struck her in the
back so hard it knocked her plumb crazy. It was a big lake of water
about ten yards in front of 'em, and if her mother hadn't run and caught
her she would have walked right in it and drowned.

"In them times white men went with colored gals and women bold. Any time
they saw one and wanted her, she had to go with him, and his wife didn't
say nothin' 'bout it. Not only the men, but the women went with colored
men too. That's why so many women slave owners wouldn't marry, 'cause
they was goin' with one of their slaves. These things that's goin' on
now ain't new, they been happenin'. That's why I say you just as well
leave 'em alone 'cause they gwine to do what they want to anyhow.

"My marster never did whip any grown folk. He whipped chillun when they
did anything wrong. He didn't 'low us to eat plums before breakfus, but
all the chillun, his too, would die or do it, so every time he caught us
he would whip us."

Another ex-slave recalled that "you had to call all your marster's
chillun marster or mistis, even the babies. You never wore enough
clothes and you always suffered for comfort. Us warn't even 'lowed to
have fire. If you had a fireplace in your house, it was took out and the
place closed up. If you was ever caught with fire you was beat 'most to
death. Many mothers died in confinement on account of takin' cold 'cause
us couldn't have fire.

"My young marster tried to go with me, and 'cause I wouldn't go with him
he pretended I had done somethin' and beat me. I fought him back because
he had no right to beat me for not goin' with him. His mother got mad
with me for fightin' him back and I told her why he had beat me. Well
then she sent me to the courthouse to be whipped for fightin' him. They
had stocks there where most people would send their slaves to be
whipped. These stocks was in the shape of a cross, and they would strap
your clothes up around your waist and have nothin' but your naked part
out to whip. They didn't care about who saw your nakedness. Anyway they
beat me that day until I couldn't sit down. When I went to bed I had to
lie on my stomach to sleep. After they finished whippin' me, I told them
they needn't think they had done somethin' by strippin' me in front of
all them folk 'cause they had also stripped their mamas and sisters. God
had made us all, and he made us just alike.

"They never carried me back home after that; they put me in the Nigger
Trader's Office to be sold. About two days later I was sold to a man at
McBean. When I went to his place everbody told me as soon as I got there
how mean he was and they said his wife was still meaner. She was jealous
of me because I was light; said she didn't know what her husband wanted
to bring that half white nigger there for, and if he didn't get rid of
me pretty quick she was goin' to leave. Well he didn't get rid of me and
she left about a month after I got there. When he saw she warn't comin'
back 'til he got rid of me, he brought me back to the Nigger Trader's

"As long as you warn't sold, your marster was 'sponsible for you, so
whenever they put you on the market you had to praise yourself in order
to be sold right away. If you didn't praise yourself you got a beatin'.
I didn't stay in the market long. A dissipated woman bought me and I
done laundry work for her and other dissipated women to pay my board
'til freedom come. They was all very nice to me.

"Whenever you was sold your folk never knowed about it 'til afterwards,
and sometimes they never saw you again. They didn't even know who you
was sold to or where they was carryin' you, unless you could write back
and tell 'em.

"The market was in the middle of Broad and Center Streets. They made a
scaffold whenever they was goin' to sell anybody, and would put the
person up on this so everybody could see him good. Then they would sell
him to the highest bidder. Everybody wanted women who would have
children fast. They would always ask you if you was a good breeder, and
if so they would buy you at your word, but if you had already had too
many chillun, they would say you warn't much good. If you hadn't ever
had any chillun, your marster would tell 'em you was strong, healthy,
and a fast worker. You had to have somethin' about you to be sold. Now
sometimes, if you was a real pretty young gal, somebody would buy you
without knowin' anythin' 'bout you, just for yourself. Before my old
marster died, he had a pretty gal he was goin' with and he wouldn't let
her work nowhere but in the house, and his wife nor nobody else didn't
say nothin' 'bout it; they knowed better. She had three chillun for him
and when he died his brother come and got the gal and the chillun.

"One white lady that lived near us at McBean slipped in a colored gal's
room and cut her baby's head clean off 'cause it belonged to her
husband. He beat her 'bout it and started to kill her, but she begged so
I reckon he got to feelin' sorry for her. But he kept goin' with the
colored gal and they had more chillun.

"I never will forget how my marster beat a pore old woman so she
couldn't even get up. And 'cause she couldn't get up when he told her
to, he hit her on the head with a long piece of iron and broke her
skull. Then he made one of the other slaves take her to the jail. She
suffered in jail all night, and the jailer heard her moanin' and
groanin', so the next mornin' he made marster come and get her. He was
so mad 'cause he had to take her out of jail that he had water pumped
into her skull just as soon as he got back home. Then he dropped her
down in a field and she died 'fore night. That was a sad time. You saw
your own folk killed and couldn't say a word 'bout it; if you did you
would be beat and sometimes killed too.

"A man in callin' distance from our place had a whippin' pole. This man
was just as mean as he could be. I know he is in hell now, and he ought
to be. A woman on his place had twins and she warn't strong from the
beginnin'. The day after the chillun was borned, he told her to go over
to his house and scrub it from front to back. She went over to the house
and scrubbed two rooms and was so sick she had to lay down on the floor
and rest awhile. His wife told her to go on back to her house and get in
bed but she was afraid. Finally she got up and scrubbed another room and
while she was carryin' the water out she fainted. The mistress had some
of the men carry her home and got another slave to finish the scrubbin'
so the marster wouldn't beat the pore nigger. She was a good woman but
her husband was mean as the devil. He would even beat her. When he got
home that night he didn't say nothin' 'cause the house had been
scrubbed, but the next mornin' one of the chillun told him about the
woman faintin' and the other girl finishin' the scrubbin'. He got mad
and said his wife was cloakin' for the slaves, that there was nothin'
wrong with the woman, she was just lazy. He beat his wife, then went out
and tied the pore colored woman to a whippin' pole and beat her
unmerciful. He left her hangin' on the pole and went to church. When he
got back she was dead. He had the slaves take her down and bury her in a
box. He said that laziness had killed her and that she warn't worth the
box she was buried in. The babies died the next day and he said he was
glad of it 'cause they would grow up lazy just like their mother.

"My marster had a barrel with nails drove in it that he would put you in
when he couldn't think of nothin' else mean enough to do. He would put
you in this barrel and roll it down a hill. When you got out you would
be in a bad fix, but he didn't care. Sometimes he rolled the barrel in
the river and drowned his slaves.

"I had a brother who worked at the acadamy and every night when the
teacher had his class he would let my brother come in. He taught him to
read and write too. He learned to read and write real well and the
teacher said he was the smartest one in the class. Marster passed our
window one night and heard him readin'. The next mornin' he called him
over to the house and fooled him into readin' and writin', told him he
had somethin' he wanted him to do if he could read and write good
enough. My brother read everythin' marster give him and wrote with a
pencil and ink pen. Marster was so mad that he could read and write
better than his own boy that he beat him, took him away from the
academy, and put him to work in the blacksmith shop. Marster wouldn't
let him wear no shoes in the shop 'cause he wanted the hot cinders to
fall on his feet to punish him. When the man in charge of the shop told
marster he wouldn't work my brother unless he had on shoes, he bought
some brogans that he knowed he couldn't wear, and from then on he made
him do the hardest kind of work he could think of.

"My marster never whipped us himself. He had a coachman do all the
whippin' and he stood by to see that it was done right. He whipped us
until we was blistered and then took a cat-o-nine-tails and busted the
blisters. After that he would throw salty water on the raw places. I
mean it almost gave you spasms. Whenever they sent you to the courthouse
to be whipped the jail keeper's daughter give you a kick after they put
you in the stocks. She kicked me once and when they took me out I sho
did beat her. I scratched her everwhere I could and I knowed they would
beat me again, but I didn't care so long as I had fixed her."

One ex-slave "belonged to an old lady who was a widow. This lady was
very good to me. Of course most people said it was 'cause her son was my
father. But she was just good to all of us. She did keep me in the house
with her. She knowed I was her son's child all right. When I married, I
still stayed with my mistress 'til she died. My husband stayed with his
marster in the day time and would come and stay with me at night.

"When my mistress died I had to be sold. My husband told me to ask his
marster to buy me. He didn't want me to belong to him because I would
have to work real hard and I hadn't been use to no hard work, but he was
so afraid somebody would buy me and carry me somewhere way off, 'til he
decided it was best for his marster to buy me. So his marster bought me
and give me and my husband to his son. I kept house and washed for his
son as long as he was single. When he married his wife changed me from
the house and put me in the field and she put one of the slaves her
mother give her when she married, in the kitchen. My marster's wife was
very mean to all of us. She didn't like me at all. She sold my oldest
child to somebody where I couldn't ever see him any more and kept me.
She just did that to hurt me. She took my baby child and put her in the
house with her to nurse her baby and make fire. And all while she was in
the house with her she had to sleep on the floor.

"Whenever she got mad with us she would take the cow hide, that's what
she whipped us with, and whip us 'til the blood ran down. Her house
was high off the ground and one night the calf went under the house
and made water. The next morning she saw it, so she took two of my
sister-in-law's chillun and carried 'em in the kitchen and tied 'em. She
did this while her husband was gone. You see if he had been there he
wouldn't have let her done that. She took herself a chair and sit down
and made one of the slaves she brought there with her whip those chillun
so 'til all of the slaves on the place was cryin'. One of the slaves run
all the way where our marster was and got him. He come back as quick as
he could and tried to make her open the door, but she wouldn't do it so
he had to break the door in to make her stop whippin' them chillun. The
chillun couldn't even cry when he got there. And when he asked her what
she was whippin' them for she told him that they had went under the
house and made that water. My master had two of the men to take 'em over
to our house, but they was small and neither one ever got over that
whippin'. One died two days later and the other one died about a month
afterwards. Everybody hated her after that.

"Just before freedom declared, my husband took very sick and she took
her husband and come to my house to make him get up. I told her that he
was not able to work, but my husband was so scared they would beat me to
death 'til he begged me to hush. I expect marster would have if he
hadn't been scared of his father. You see his father give me to him. He
told me if the legislature set in his behalf he would make me know a
nigger's place. You know it was near freedom. I told him if he made my
husband get out of bed as sick as he was and go to work, I would tell
his father if he killed me afterwards. And that's one time I was goin'
to fight with 'em. I never was scared of none of 'em, so I told 'em if
they touched my husband they wouldn't touch nothin' else. They wouldn't
give us nothin' to eat that whole day.

"Course we never did have much to eat. At night they would give us a
teacup of meal and a slice of bacon a piece for breakfus' the next
mornin'. If you had chillun they would give you a teacup of meal for two
chillun. By day light the next mornin' the overseer was at your house to
see if you was out, and if you hadn't cooked and eat and got out of that
house he would take that bull whip, and whip you nearly to death. He
carried that bull whip with him everywhere he went.

"Those folks killed one of my husband's brothers. He was kind of
crack-brained, and 'cause he was half crazy, they beat him all the time.
The last time they beat him we was in the field and this overseer beat
him with that bull hide all across the head and everywhere. He beat him
until he fell down on his knees and couldn't even say a word. And do you
know he wouldn't even let a one of us go to see about him. He stayed
stretched out in the the field 'til us went home. The next mornin' he
was found dead right where he had beat him that evenin'.

"'Bout two or three weeks later than that they told one of the slaves
they was goin' to beat him after we quit work that evenin'. His name was

"When the overseer went to the other end of the field Josh dropped his
hoe and walked off. Nobody saw him anymore for about three weeks. He was
the best hand us had and us sho' did need him. Our master went
everywhere he could think of, lookin' for Josh, but he couldn't find him
and we was glad of it. After he looked and looked and couldn't find him
he told all of us to tell Josh to come back if we knowed where he was.
He said if Josh would come back he wouldn't whip him, wouldn't let the
overseer whip him. My husband knowed where he was but he warn't goin' to
tell nobody. Josh would come to our house every night and us would give
him some of what us had for dinner and supper. Us always saved it for
him. Us would eat breakfus' at our house, but all of us et dinner and
supper at the mess house together. Everyday when I et dinner and supper
I would take a part of mine and my husband would take a part of his and
us would carry it to our house for pore Josh. 'Bout 'leven o'clock at
night, when everybody was sleep, Josh would come to the side window and
get what us had for him. It's really a shame the way that pore man had
to hide about just to keep from bein' beat to death 'bout nothin'. Josh
said the first day he left he went in the woods and looked and looked
for a place to hide. Later he saw a tree that the wind had blowed the
top off and left 'bout ten feet standin'. This was rather a big tree and
all of the insides had rotted out. I reckon you have seen trees like
that. Well that's the way this one was. So Josh climbed up this tree and
got down inside of it. He didn't know there was nothin' down in that
tree, but there was some little baby bears in there. Then there he was
down there with no way to come out, and knowin' all the time that the
mama bear was comin' back. So he thought and thought and thought. After
while he thought 'bout a knife he had in his pocket. You see he couldn't
climb out of the tree, it was too tall. When he heard the bear climbin'
up the tree he opened his knife. Have you ever seen a bear comin' down a
tree? Well he comes down backwards. So when this bear started down
inside of the tree he went down backwards, and Josh had his knife open
and just caught him by the tail and begin stickin' him with the knife.
That's the way Josh got out of that tree. When he stuck the bear with
the knife the bear went back up the tree, and that pulled Josh up. And
when the bear got to the top of the tree Josh caught a hold of the tree
and pulled himself on out, but the bear fell and broke his neck. Well
Josh had to find him somewhere else to hide. In them times there was big
caves in the woods, not only the woods but all over the country, and
that's where pore Josh hid all while he was away. Josh stayed there in
that cave a long time then he come on back home. He didn't get a
whippin' either."

Childhood memories were recalled by an old woman who said: "When I was
about nine years old, for about six months, I slept on a crocus bag
sheet in order to get up and nurse the babies when they cried. Do you
see this finger? You wonder why its broke? Well one night the babies
cried and I didn't wake up right away to 'tend to 'em and my mistess
jumped out of bed, grabbed the piece of iron that was used to push up
the fire and began beatin' me with it. That's the night this finger got
broke, she hit me on it. I have two more fingers she broke beatin' me at
diff'unt times. She made me break this leg too. You see they would put
the women in stocks and beat 'em whenever they done somethin' wrong.
That's the way my leg was broke. You see us had to call all of our
marster's chillun 'mistess' or 'marster.' One day I forgot to call one
of my young mistesses, 'miss.' She was about eight or nine months old.
My mistess heard me and put me in a stock and beat me. While she was
beatin' me, I turned my leg by some means and broke it. Don't you think
she quit beatin' me 'cause I had broke my leg. No, that made no
diff'unce to her. That's been years ago, but it still worries me now.
Now other times when you called your marster's chillun by their names,
they would strip you and let the child beat you. It didn't matter
whether the child was large or small, and they always beat you 'til the
blood ran down.

"Have you ever slept in the grave yard? I know you haven't but I have.
Many a time when I was told that I was goin' to get a beatin', I would
hide away in the cemetery where I stayed all night layin' in gullies
between graves prayin'. All night long I could see little lights runnin'
all over the grave yard, and I could see ha'nts, and hear 'em sayin'
'Uh, Uh, Uh, Uh, Uh,' which meant they were pityin' my case.

"When they whipped the men, all their clothes was took off, their hands
was fastened together and then they wound 'em up in the air to a post
and tied their feet to the bottom of the post. They would begin whippin'
'em at sundown, and sometimes they would be whippin' 'em as late as
'leven o'clock at night. You could hear 'em cryin' and prayin' a long
ways off. When they prayed for the Lord to have mercy, their marster
would cuss the Lord and tell 'em they better not call his name again."

The whipping pole, as described by Lizzie, was a long post several feet
in diameter to which was attached a long rope through a pulley. On one
end was a device, similiar to the modern handcuff--the other end was
used to draw the hand to an upward position, thereby, rendering the
individual helpless. At the base of the pole was a clamp like instrument
which held the feet in a motionless position.

Roy Redfield recalls going to the courthouse and seeing the older slaves
whipped. "When I would go there with my young marster I would see 'em
whippin' the slaves. You see they had stocks there then, and they
wouldn't put you in jail like they do now. Your marster or mistess would
send you to the courthouse with a note and they would put you in them
stocks and beat you, then they would give you a note and send you back.
They never did beat me, if they had my old mistess would have raised
sand with 'em. Whenever I was whipped my mother did it. I warn't no
slave and my ma neither, but my pa was.

"When they whipped you they would strap you down in them stocks, then a
man would wind the whippin' machine and beat you 'til they had given you
the number of lashes your boss had on the note. I didn't see them
whippin' any women there, so I can't say they did and I can't say they

"My master wouldn't let us go to school, but his chillun would slip
'round and teach us what they could out of their books. They would also
give us books to read. Whenever their pa or ma caught them tryin' to
teach us they always whipped them. I learned to read and write from 'em
and I'll never forget how hard it was for 'em to get a chance to teach
me. But if they caught you tryin' to write they would cut your finger
off and if they caught you again they would cut your head off.

"When I was a young man, a old man stole the head and pluck (pluck is
the liver and lites) out of the hog (some people call it the haslet) and
hid it up in the loft of his house. When his marster missed it he went
to this man's house lookin' for it. The man told him that he didn't have
it. He had already told his wife if his marster come not to own it
either. Well his master kept askin' him over and over 'bout the head and
pluck, but they denied having it. The marster told 'em if they didn't
give it to him and that quick he was goin' to give 'em a thousand lashes
each, if less didn't kill 'em. This woman's husband told her not to own
it. He told her to take three thousand lashes and don't own it. So their
marster whipped her and whipped her, but she wouldn't own it. Finally he
quit whippin' her and started whippin' the old man. Just as soon as he
started whippin' the man he told his wife to go up in the loft of the
house and throw the head and pluck down 'cause he didn't want it.

"You always had to get a pass when goin' out. Sometimes, when you
wouldn't be thinking, a patter roller would step up to the door and ask
who was there. If any visitor was there they would ask 'em to show their
pass. If you didn't have a pass they would take you out and beat you,
then make you go home and when you got home, your marster would take you
to the barn, strip you buck naked, tie you to a post and beat you. Us
didn't have to get passes whenever us wanted to go visitin'. All us had
to do was tell 'em who us belonged to, and they always let us by. They
knowed our marster would let us go 'thout passes.

"Us used to go to barn dances all the time. I never will forget the
fellow who played the fiddle for them dances. He had run away from his
marster seven years before. He lived in a cave he had dug in the ground.
He stayed in this cave all day and would come out at night. This cave
was in the swamp. He stole just 'bout everythin' he et. His marster had
been tryin' to catch him for a long time. Well they found out he was
playin' for these dances and one night us saw some strange lookin' men
come in but us didn't pay it much 'tention. Us always made a big oak
fire and thats where us got mos' of our light from. Well these men
danced with the girls a good while and after a while they started goin'
out one by one. Way after while they all came back in together, they had
washed the blackenin' off their faces, and us seen they was white. This
man had a song he would always sing. 'Fooled my marster seven
years--expect to fool him seven more.' So when these men came in they
went to him and told him maybe he had fooled 'em for seven years, but he
wouldn't fool 'em seven more. When they started to grab him he just
reached in the fire and got a piece of wood that was burnin' good on one
end and waved it all around (in a circle) until he set three of 'em on
fire. While they was puttin' this fire out he run out in the swamp and
back in his cave. They tried to catch him again. They painted their
faces and done just like they did the first time, but this time they
carried pistols. When they pulled their pistols on him he did just like
he did the first time, and they never did catch him. He stopped comin'
to play for the dances after they was straight after him. Dogs couldn't
trail him 'cause he kept his feet rubbed with onions.

"I have seen some marsters make their slaves walk in snow knee deep,
barefooted. Their heels would be cracked open jus' like corn bread.

"The only real mean thing they did to us when I was young was to sell my
father when our marster died. They sold him to somebody way off, and
they promised to bring him back to see us, but they never did. We always
wished he would come, but until this day us hasn't laid eyes on him
again. My mother worried 'bout him 'til she died.

"Chillun didn't know what shoes was 'til they was 'bout fifteen years
old. They would go a mile or a mile and a half in the snow for water
anytime, and the only thin' they ever had on their feet would be
somethin' made out of home-spun. You don't hardly hear of chilblain feet
now, but then most every child you saw had cracked heels. The first pair
of shoes I ever wore, I was sixteen years old, was too small for me and
I pulled 'em off and throwed 'em in the fire."

[HW: Dist. #2
Ex. Slave #99]


[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]


The ex-slaves interviewed ranged in ages from 75 to 100 years old. Out
of about thirty-five negroes contacted only two seemed to feel bitter
over memories of slave days. All the others spoke with much feeling and
gratitude of the good old days when they were so well cared for by their
masters. Without exception the manners of these old men and women were
gentle and courteous. The younger ones could pass on to us only
traditional memories of slavery times, as given them by their parents;
on some points a few were vague, while others could give clear-cut and
vivid pictures.

Practically all the Negroes interviewed seemed to be of pure African
blood, with black or dark brown skin, Negroid features, and kinky,
tightly wrapped wool. Most of the women were small and thin. We found
one who had a strain of Indian blood, a woman named Mary, who belonged
to John Roof. Her grandfather was an Indian, and her grandmother was
part Indian, having migrated into South Carolina from Virginia.

Sarah Ray, who was born on the Curtis Lowe place in McDuffie County was
one of the few ex-slaves contacted, who was admittedly half-white.
Although now wrinkled and weazened with age she has no definite Negroid
features. Her eyes are light hazel and her hair fluffs about her face in
soft ringlets instead of the tight kinks of the pure Negro.

"My father was a white man, de overseer," said Sarah. "Leastways, dey
laid me to him."

Sarah was brought up like the Negro children on the plantation. She had
no hard work to do. Her mother was a field hand, and they lived in a
little house in the quarters. "De ve'y fust thing I kin remember is
ridin' down de road in de ox cart wid my mammy," she said. "Ole man Eli
wus drivin'. We wus goin' to Miss Meg's on de odder side o' Hart's
Branch. Marster had give us to Miss Meg when she married Mr. Obediah


The slave houses were called "quarters," which consisted generally of a
double row of houses facing each other in a grove of trees behind the
"big house." On prosperous plantations each of these cabins had a garden
plot and a chicken yard. Some of them were built of logs, but many were
of planks. Most of them were large, one-room, unceiled, with open
fireplaces at one end for cooking. When families grew too large a shed
room would be "drap down on de back." Another type of slave cabin was
called the "Double-pen" house. This was a large two-room cabin, with a
chimney between the two rooms, and accommodating two families. On the
more prosperous plantations the slave quarters were white-washed at

On plantations housing arrangements were left entirely to the discretion
of the owner, but in the cities strict rules were made. Among the
ordinances of the City Council of Augusta, dated from August 10th,
1820-July 8, 1829, Section 14, is the following law concerning the
housing of slaves:

"No person of color shall occupy any house but that of some white person
by whom he or she is owned or hired without a license from the City
Council. If this license is required application must first be made for
permission to take it out. If granted the applicant shall give bond with
approved security, not exceeding the sum of $100.00 for his or her good
behavior. On execution of charge the Clerk shall issue the license. Any
person renting a house, or tenament contrary to this section or
permitting the occupancy of one, may be fined in a sum not exceeding

Descriptions were given of housing conditions by quite a number of
slaves interviewed. Fannie Fulcher, who was a slave on Dr. Balding
Miller's plantation in Burke County described the slave quarters thus:
"Houses wus built in rows, one on dat side, one on dis side--open space
in de middle, and de overseer's house at de end, wid a wide hall right
through it. (Fannie was evidently referring to the breezeway or dogtrot,
down the middle of many small plantation houses). We cook on de
fireplace in de house. We used to have pots hanging right up in de
chimbley. When dere wus lots of chillun it wus crowded. But sometimes
dey took some of 'em to de house for house girls. Some slep' on de flo'
and some on de bed. Two-three houses had shed rooms at de back. Dey had
a patch sometime. My father, he used to have a patch. He clean it up
hisself at night in de swamp."

Susie Brown, of the Evans Plantation on Little River in Columbia County
said, in describing the Quarters, "Dey look like dis street." She
indicated the unpaved street with its rows of unpainted shacks. "Some of
dem wus plank houses and some wus log houses, two rooms and a shed room.
And we had good beds, too--high tester beds wid good corn shuck and hay

On the plantation of John Roof the slave cabins were of logs. Large
families had two or three rooms; smaller ones one or two rooms.

Susannah Wyman, who was a slave on the Starling Freeman place near Troy,
S.C. said, "Our houses wus made outer logs. We didn't have nothin' much
nohow, but my mammy she had plenty o' room fer her chillun. We didn't
sleep on de flo', we had bed. De people in de plantachun all had bed."

Others described mattresses made of straw and corn shucks. Another said,
"Yas'm, we had good cotton mattresses. Marster let us go to de gin house
and git all de cotton we need."

Another described the sleeping conditions thus, "Chillun pretty much
slep' on de flo' and old folks had beds. Dey wus made out o' boards
nailed togedder wid a rope strung across it instead o' springs, and a
cotton mattress across it."


Many of the Negroes with whom we talked looked back on those days of
plenty with longing. Rations of meal, bacon and syrup were given out
once a week by the overseer. Vegetables, eggs and chickens raised in the
little plots back of the cabins were added to these staples.

Ellen Campbell, who was owned by Mr. William Eve of Richmond County
said, "My boss would feed 'em good. He was killin' hogs stidy fum
Jinuary to March. He had two smokehouses. Dere wus four cows. At night
de folks on one side de row o' cabins go wid de piggins fer milk, and in
de mawnin's, dose on de odder side go fer de piggins o' milk."

"And did you have plenty of other good things to eat?" we asked.

"Law, yas'm. Rations wus give out to de slaves; meal, meat, and jugs o'
syrup. Dey give us white flour at Christmas. Every slave family had de
gyarden patch and chickens. Marster buy eggs and chickens fum us at
market prices."

Another slave told us that when the slaves got hungry before dinner time
they would ask the nursing mothers to bring them back hoe-cake when they
went to nurse the babies. Those hot hoe-cakes were eaten in mid-morning,
"to hold us till dinner-time."

On one plantation where the mother was the cook for the owner, her
children were fed from the big kitchen.

A piece of iron crossed the fireplace, and the pots hung down on hooks.
"Us cooked corn dodgers," one ex-slave recalled, "the hearth would be
swept clean, the ash cakes wrapped up into corn shucks and cooked brown.
They sure was good!"


The large plantations were really industrial centers in which almost
everything necessary to the life of the white family and the large
retinue of slaves was grown or manufactured. On estates where there were
many slaves there were always trained blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters,
tanners, shoemakers, seamstresses, laundresses, weavers, spinners, cooks
and house servants; all employed in the interest of the community life
of the plantation. Those who could not learn to do any of this skilled
work were turned into the fields and called, "hands". Both men and women
were employed in the fields where cotton, corn, rice and tobacco were
cultivated. House servants ware always considered superior to field

Melinda Mitchell, who was born a slave in Edgefield, S.C., said, "My
family wasn't fiel' hands. We wus all house servants. My father wus de
butler, and he weighed out de rations fer de slaves. My mammy wus de
house 'oman and her mother and sister wus de cooks. Marster wouldn't
sell none of his slaves, and when he wanted to buy one he'd buy de whole
fambly to keep fum havin' 'em separated."

At an early age Melinda and her younger sister were given to the two
young ladies of the house as their personal maids. "I wus given to Miss
Nettie," Melinda said, "Our young Mistresses visited, too, and wherever
dey went my sister and me went erlong. My own mammy took long trips with
ole Mistis to de Blue Ridge Mountains and sometimes over de big water."

Susannah Wyman of the Starling Freeman plantation in South Carolina
said, "The house servants wuz trained to cook, clean up, de man wuz
trained to make shoes. I don't think us had carpenters. I toted water in
de field, hoed some. I wuz quite young. I spun but I didn't weave. Dere
wuz a lady dey had on de place did de weavin'. I had many a striped
dress woven on dat big loom and dey wuz pretty, too."

Susie Brown, who used to live on the Evans plantation on Little River in
Columbia County was too little to do any hard work during slavery times.
"I jus' stayed at home and 'tend de baby," she said. "But my mother was
a cook and my father a blacksmith."

Mary's mother was a plantation weaver. "Mistis would cut out dresses out
of homespun. We had purple dyed checks. They was pretty. I had to sew
seams. Marster had to buy shoes for us, he give us good-soled ones."

Easter Jones, who had only bitter memories of the slavery period said,
"Sometimes we eben had to pull fodder on Sunday. But what I used to hate
worse'n anything was wipin' dishes. Dey'd make me take de dish out de
scaldin' water, den if I drap it dey whip me. Dey whip you so hard your
back bleed, den dey pour salt and water on it. And your shirt stick to
your back, and you hadder get somebody to grease it 'fore you kin take
it off."

Ellen Campbell, who used to belong to Mr. William Eve said she did only
simple jobs about the plantation in childhood, "When I was 'bout ten
years old dey started me totin' water--you know ca'yin' water to de
hands in de field. 'Bout two years later I got my first field job
'tending sheep. When I wus fifteen year old Missus gib me to Miss Eva,
you know she de one marry Colonel Jones. My young Mistus was fixin' to
git married, but she couldn't on account de war, so she brought me to
town and rented me out to a lady runnin' a boarding house. De rent wus
paid to my Mistus. One day I was takin' a tray from de out-door kitchen
to de house when I stumbled and dropped it. De food spill all over de
ground. Da lady got so mad she picked up de butcher knife and chop me in
de haid. I went runnin' till I come to da place where mah white folks
live. Miss Eva took me and wash de blood out mah head and put medicine
on it, and she wrote a note to de lady and she say, 'Ellen is my slave,
give to me by my mother. I wouldn't had dis happen to her no more dan to
me. She won't come back dere no more.'"

Willis Bennefield, who was a slave on Dr. Balding Miller's plantation in
Burke County, said, "I wuk in de fiel' and I drove him 30 years. He was
a doctor. He had a ca'iage and a buggy, too. My father driv de ca'iage.
I driv de doctor. Sometimes I was fixin' to go to bed and had to hitch
up my horse and go five or six miles. He had regular saddle horses, two
pair o' horses fer de ca'iage. He was a rich man--riches' man in Burke
County--had three hundred slaves. He made his money on de plantachuns,
not doctorin'."

Fannie Fulcher, who was also one of Dr. Miller's slaves, and Willis
Bennefield's sister gives this account of the slaves' work in earning
extra money. "De marster give 'em ev'y day work clothes, but dey bought
de res' deyselves. Some raise pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, all sich
things like dat in dey patches; sell 'em to different stores. Jus' like
somebody want ground clear up, dey git big torches fer light, clean up
de new groun' at night, dat money b'long to dem. I year my mother and
father say de slaves made baskets and quilts and things and sell 'em for


The following appears in the Statue Laws of Georgia for 1845 concerning
educating negroes, under Section II, Minor Offences.

     "Punishment for teaching slaves or free persons of color to
     read. If any slave, negro, or free person of color, or any
     white person, shall teach any other slave, negro or free
     person of color, to read or write either written or printed
     characters, the said free person of color or slave shall be
     punished by fine and whipping, or fine or whipping, at the
     direction of the court."

Among the ordinances passed by the City of Augusta, effective between
August 10th, 1820 and July 8th, 1829, was the following concerning the
teaching of negroes:

     "No person shall teach a negro or person of color to read or
     cause any one to be taught within the limits of the City, nor
     shall any person suffer a school for the instruction of
     negroes, or persons of color to be kept on his or her lot."

None of the ex-slaves whom we interviewed could either read or write.
Old Willis Bennefield, who used to accompany his young master to school,
said he "larned something then. I got way up in my A B Cs, but atter I
got to thinkin' 'bout gals I fergit all 'bout dat."

Another slave said, "We had a school on our plantation and a Negro
teacher named, Mathis, but they couldn't make me learn nothin'. I sure
is sorry now."

Easter Jones, who was once a slave of Lawyer Bennet, on a plantation
about ten miles from Waynesboro, said, when we asked if she had been to
school, "Chillun didn't know whut a book wus in dem days--dey didn't
teach 'em nothin' but wuk. Dey didn' learn me nothin' but to churn and
clean up house, and 'tend to dat boy and spin and cyard de roll."


Most of the ex-slaves interviewed received their early religious
training in the churches of their masters. Many churches which have
slave sections in this district are still standing. Sometimes the slaves
sat in pews partitioned off at the back of the church, and sometimes
there was a gallery with a side entrance.

The old Bath Presbyterian Church had a gallery and private entrance of
this kind. Sunday Schools were often conducted for the slaves on the

Among the ordinances passed by the City of Augusta, February 7, 1862,
was section forty-seven, which concerned negro preaching and teaching:

     "No slave or free person of color shall be allowed to preach,
     exhort or teach, in any meeting of slaves or free persons of
     color, for public worship or religious instruction in this
     city, but except at funerals or sitting up with the dead,
     without a license in writing from the Inferior Court of
     Richmond County, and Mayor of the City, regularly granted
     under the Act of the General Assembly of this State, passed
     on the 23rd day of December, 1843.

     "No colored preacher residing out of the County of Richmond,
     shall preach, exhort, or teach, until he has produced his
     license granted under the Act aforesaid, and had the same
     countersigned by the Mayor of this City, or in his absence
     by two members of Council.

     "Persons qualified as aforesaid, may hold meetings in this city
     for the purpose aforesaid, at any time during the Sabbath day,
     and on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. No other meetings
     of slaves or free persons of color for religious purposes shall
     be held, except by permission of Council.

     "No meeting of slaves or free persons of color for the purpose
     aforesaid, shall continue at any time later than 10:30 at
     night, and all such meetings shall be superintended by one or
     more citizens, appointed by the ministers in charge of their
     respective denominations, and approved by the Mayor. All slaves
     or free persons of color attending such meetings, after that
     hour, shall be arrested, and punished, under the Section,
     whether with or without tickets from their owners; and all such
     persons returning from such meetings after the ringing of the
     Market Bell, without tickets, shall be arrested and punished
     as in other cases.

     "Every offense against this section shall be punished by
     whipping, not exceeding 39 lashes, or fined not exceeding

Harriet White, who told us some of her father's slavery experiences
said, "Yas'm, dey let'em go to chu'ch, but de colored folks hadder sit
behind a boarded up place, so dey hadder stretch dey neck to see de
preacher, and den day hadder jine de Master's chu'ch--de Methodis'
Chu'ch. De spirit done tole my father to jine da Baptis' Chu'ch--dat de
right t'ing, but he hadder jine de Methodis', 'cause his Master was
Methodis'. But when he come to Augusta he wus baptise in de river. He
say he gwine ca'y God's point."

We asked Ellen Campbell of the Eve Plantation in Richmond County about
church going. She replied, "Yas'm, we used to go to town. But de
Padderolas wus ridin' in dem days, and you couldn' go off de plantachun
widout a pass. So my boss he built a brick chu'ch on de plantachun, and
de D'Laigles built a chu'ch on dere's."

Susie Brown, who was a slave on the Evans Plantation in Columbia County,
said, in speaking of her mother getting religion, "My Maw and Paw wasn't
married till after freedom. When my Maw got 'ligion dey wouldn' let her
be baptise till she was married." She stated that her mother had seven
children then. Aunt Susie had had eight children herself, but her
husband was now dead. When asked why she didn't get married again, she
replied, "Whut I wanner git married fer? I ain' able to wuk fer myself
let alone a man!"

Augustus Burden, who was born a slave on General Walker's plantation at
Windsor Springs, Ga., said, "We had no churches on our place. We went to
the white people's church at Hale's Gate. Then after they stopped the
colored people going there to church, they had their little meetings
right at home. We had one preacher, a real fine preacher, named Ned
Walker, who was my uncle by marriage."

Fannie Fulcher, a former slave on Dr. Miller's plantation in Burke
County, gave this unique account of the slave children's early religious
trainings: "Dey had a ole lady stay in de quarters who tuk care o' de
chillun whilst de mother wus in de fiel'. Den dey met at her house at
dark, and a man name, Hickman, had prayers. Dey all kneel down. Den de
chillun couln' talk till dey got home--if you talk you git a whippin'
frum de ole lady nex' night. Ole granny whip 'em."

Fannie said the slaves went to the "white folks church," and that "white
folks baptise 'em at Farmer's Bridge or Rock Creek." A white preacher
also married the slaves.


In 1757 the Patrol System was organized. This was done as a result of
continual threats of uprisings among the slaves. All white male citizens
living in each district, between the ages of 16 and 45 were eligible for
this service. The better class of people paid fines to avoid this duty.
Members of the patrol group could commit no violence, but had power to
search Negro houses and premises, and break up illegal gatherings. They
were on duty from nine at night until dawn.

By 1845 there were many laws on the Statute books of Georgia concerning
the duties of patrols. The justice of the peace in each captain's
district of the state was empowered to decide who was eligible to patrol
duty and to appoint the patrol. Every member of the patrol was required
to carry a pistol while on duty. They were required to arrest all slaves
found outside their master's domain without a pass, or who was not in
company with some white person. He was empowered to whip such slave with
twenty lashes. He also had power to search for offensive weapons and
fugitive slaves. Every time a person evaded patrol duty he was required
to pay the sum of five dollars fine.

The entire life of the slave was hedged about with rules and
regulations. Beside those passed by individual masters for their own
plantations there were many city and state laws. Severe punishment, such
as whipping on the bare skin, was the exception rather than the rule,
though some slaves have told of treatment that was actually inhuman.

In 1845 the following laws had been passed in Georgia, the violation of
which brought the death penalty:

     "Capital crimes when punished with death: The following shall
     be considered as capital offenses, when committed by a slave or
     free person of color: insurrection or an attempt to excite it;
     committing a rape, or attempting it on a free white female;
     murder of a free white person, or murder of a slave or free
     person of color, or poisoning a human being; every and each of
     these offenses shall, on conviction, be punished with death."

There were severe punishments for a slave striking a white person,
burning or attempting to burn a house, for circulating documents to
incite insurrection, conspiracy or resistance of slaves. It was against
the law for slaves to harbor other fugitive slaves, to preach without a
license, or to kill or brand cattle without instructions.

In Section Forty-Five of the Ordinances of the City of Augusta, passed
on Feb. 7, 1862, were the following restrictions:

     "Any slave or free person of color found riding or driving
     about the city, not having a written pass from his or her
     owner, hirer, or guardian, expressing the date of such pass,
     the name of the negro to whom it is given, the place or places
     to which he or she is going, how long he or she is to be
     absent, and in the case of a slave, that such slave is in the
     services of the person before the Recorder's Court by which he
     or she shall be tried, and on conviction shall be punished by
     whipping not to exceed 39 lashes.

     "No slave or free person of color, other than Ministers of the
     Gospel, having charge of churches, in the discharge of their
     duties, and funeral processions, shall be allowed to ride or
     drive within the limits of the city, on the Sabbath, without
     written permission from his or her owner, or employer, stating
     that such slave or free parson of color is on business of such
     owners or employer.

     "Every slave or free person of color not excepted as aforesaid,
     who shall be found riding or driving in the city on the
     Sabbath, without such permission from his or her owner or
     employer shall be arrested and taken to Recorder's Court; and
     if such slave or free person of color was actually engaged in
     the business of said owner or employer, the said slave or free
     person of color shall be convicted and punished by whipping,
     not to exceed 39 lashes, which punishment in no case be
     commuted by a fine.

     "It shall be the duty of the officer making the arrest of such
     slave or free person of color as aforesaid, to take into his
     possession the horse or horse and vehicle, or horses and
     vehicles, so used by such slave or free person of color, which
     property may be redeemed by the owner, if white, upon the
     payment of $10.00, and if the owner of such property is a slave
     or free person of color, he or she shall be punished by
     whipping not less than 15 lashes."

     "No slave or free person of color shall be allowed to attend
     military parades, or any procession of citizens, or at the
     markethouse on public sale days under the penalty of receiving
     not exceeding 15 lashes, for each and every offense, to be
     inflicted by the Chief of Police, Captain or any lieutenant;
     provided no person shall be prevented from having the
     attendance of his own servant on such occasions."

     "No slave or free person of color shall walk with a cane, club,
     or stick, except such slave or free person of color be blind or
     infirm; nor smoke a pipe or cigar in any street, lane, alley or
     other public place, under a penalty of not exceeding 25 lashes,
     to be inflicted by any officer of the City, by order of the
     Recorder's Court."


     "No slave or free person of color shall play upon any
     instrument of music after sunset, without permission from the
     mayor or two members of Council, unless employed in the house
     of some citizen. No slave or free person of color shall be
     absent from his or her house 15 minutes after the bell shall
     have been rung, without a sufficient pass, under the penalty
     of 25 lashes, to be inflicted by the Chief of Police, or any
     officer of the City, and be confined in the Guard-Room for
     further examination, if found under suspicious circumstances.
     No slave or person of color shall keep lights in the house
     which they occupy after 10:00 at night, unless in case of


     "No slave or free person of color shall in the streets or
     alleys, fight, quarrel, riot, or otherwise, act in a disorderly
     manner, under the penalty of chastisement by any officer of the
     city, not exceeding 25 lashes, and in all cases of conviction
     before the Recorder's Court, he or she shall be punished by
     whipping, not exceeding 75 lashes.

     "No slave or free person of color, shall be allowed to keep a
     shop or shops for the sale of beer, cake, fruit, soda water, or
     any similar articles on their own account or for the benefit
     of any other person whomsoever. Any slave or slaves, or free
     person of color, found keeping a shop and selling, bartering,
     or trading in any way, shall be taken up and punished by
     whipping, with not more than 30 lashes for each and every
     offense, and shall stand committed until the officer's fees
     are paid."

Most of the slaves interviewed were too young during the slavery period
to have experienced any of the more cruel punishments, though some
remembered hearing tales of brutal beatings. Most of the punishments
inflicted were mild chastisements or restrictions.

Susie Brown, who was a slave on the Evans' plantation on Little River in
Columbia, said, "My Marster wus good to me, good as he could be--only
thing he whup me fer wus usin' snuff. And when he go to whup me, Mistis
beg him to stop, and he only gib me a lick or two. And if Mistis try to
whup me, he make her stop. No, dey didn't had to do much whuppin'. Dey
wus good to de hand." When asked about her overseer she replied, "Dere
wus a overseer, but I disremember his name."

Most of these old ex-slaves' recollections had to do with the
"Patterolas", as the Patrol was called. One of them said about the
Patrol, "Oh yes, ma'm, I seed da Patterolas, but I never heard no song
about 'em. Dey wus all white mens. Jus' like now you want to go off your
Marster's place to another man's place, you had to get a pass from your
boss man. If you didn't have dat pass, de Patterolas would whip you."

A woman who lived on the Roof plantation said, "I worked under four
overseers, one of 'em was mean, and he had a big deep voice. When the
niggers was at the feed lot, the place where they carried the dinner
they brought to the fields, he would hardly give 'em time to eat before
he hollered out, 'Git up and go back to work!'"

She also said that Mars. Thomas, the red-haired young master, was mean
about slaves over-staying pass time. "If they want off and stayed too
long, when they came back, he'd strip them stark, mother nekked, tie 'em
to a tree, and whip 'em good. But old Marster, he didn't believe in
whipping. It was different when the boys took possession after he died."

Very few slaves ran away, but when they did the master hunted them with

When Carrie Lewis, who belonged to Captain Ward, was asked if the slaves
were ever whipped on their plantation, she replied, "No ma'm, de Marster
say to de overseer, 'If you whup dem, I whup you.' No ma'm, he wouldn't
keep a overseer dat wus mean to us--Cap'n Ward wus good to us. He
wouldn't let de little ones call him 'Marster', dey had to call him and
de Missus, 'Grampa' and 'Gramma'. My folks didn't mistreat de slaves.
I'd be better off now if it wus dem times now."

We asked Ellen Campbell, a Richmond County slave if her master was good
to her and she replied, "I'll say fer Mr. William Eve--he de bes' white
man anywhere round here on any dese plantachuns. Dey all own slaves.
Sometimes de overseer whup 'em--make 'em strip off dey shirt and whup
'em on de bare skin. My boss had a white overseer and two colored men
dey call drivers. If dey didn't done right dey dus whup 'em and turn 'em

It was said that those who refused to take whippings were generally
negroes of African royal blood, or their descendants.

Edward Glenn of the Clinton Brown plantation in Forsythe County, Ga.,
said, "My father would not take a whipping. He would die before he would
take a whipping. The Marster thought so much of him, he made young
Marster Clinton promise he would never sell him or put a stripe on him.
Once, when he wanted to punish him, he give him a horse and bridle and
fifty dollars. 'Go on off somewhere and get somebody to buy you.' My
father stayed away a month. One day he come home, he had been off about
100 miles. He brought with him a man who wanted to buy him. Marster put
the man up for the night, fed his horse, and father went on out to
mother. Next day when the man made him a price on father, Marster said,
'I was just foolin'. I wouldn't sell him for nothing. I was trying to
punish him. He is true and honest, but he won't take a whipping.'

"Sometimes a slave was treated so bad by his owners he was glad if they
put him up to be sold. If he was a bad man, they handcuffed him, put him
on a stand, like for preachings and auctioned him off to the highest

"When runaway slave was brought back they was punished. Once in Alabama
I saw a woman stripped naked, laid over a stump in a field with her head
hangin' down on one side, her feet on the other, and tied to the stump.
Then they whipped her hard, and you could hear her hollering far off,
'Oh, Lawd a'musay! Lawd a-musay!'."

Another punishment Edward said, was called the "Gameron Stick",
(sometimes called the Gamlin stick, or Spanish Buck). The slave's arms
were bound around the bent knees and fastened to a stick run beneath
them. This was called the "Spanish Buck" punishment. They stripped the
slave, who was unable to stand up, and rolled him on one side and
whipped him till the blood came. They called the whip the "cowhide".
Slaves were whipped for small things, such as forgetting orders or
spilling food.


The most important person in the disciplining of negro slaves was the
overseer. However, he occupied an unfortunate position socially. He was
not regarded as the equal of the owner's family, and was not allowed to
mix socially with the slaves. His was a hard lot, and consequently this
position was generally filled by men of inferior grade. However, he was
supposed to have an education so that he could handle the finances of
the plantation accurately, and to be possessed of a good moral character
in order to enforce the regulations. On most Georgia plantations
overseers were given a house near the slave quarters. In some instances
he lived in the house with the plantation owner. The average pay for
overseers was from three to five hundred dollars a year.

Next in authority to the overseer was the driver, who directed the work
in the fields. Every morning the driver blew the horn or rang the
plantation bell to summon slaves to their work. Next to him was some
trusted slave, who carried the keys to the smokehouse and commissary,
and helped to give out rations once a week.

Many of the overseers were naturally cruel and inclined to treat the
slaves harshly. Often strict rules and regulations had to be made to
hold them in check. Overseers were generally made to sign these
regulations on receiving their appointments.

In 1840 the Southern Cultivator and Monthly Journal published the
following rules of the plantation:


     Rule 1st. The overseer will not be expected to work in the
     crop, but he must constantly with the hands, when not
     otherwise engaged in the employer's business, and will be
     required to attend on occasions to any pecuniary transactions
     connected with the plantation.

     Rule 2nd. The overseer is not expected to be absent from the
     plantation unless actual necessity compels him, Sundays
     excepted, and then it is expected that he will, on all
     occasions, be at home by night.

     Rule 3rd. He will attend, morning, noon and night, at the
     stable, and see that the mules and horses are ordered, curried,
     and fed.

     Rule 4th. He will see that every negro is out by daylight in
     the morning--a signal being given by a blast of the horn, the
     first horn will be blown half an hour before day. He will also
     visit the negro cabins at least once or twice a week, at night,
     to see that all are in. No negro must be out of his house after
     ten oclock in summer and eleven in winter.

     Rule 5th. The overseer is not to give passes to the negroes
     without the employer's consent. The families the negroes are
     allowed to visit will be specified by the employer; also those
     allowed to visit the premises. Nor is any negro allowed to
     visit the place without showing himself to the employer or

     Rule 6th. The overseer is required not to chat with the
     negroes, except on business, nor to encourage tale bearing, nor
     is any tale to be told to him or employer, by any negro, unless
     he has a witness to his statements, nor are they allowed, in
     any instance, to quarrel and fight. But the employer will
     question any negro, if confidence can be placed in him, without
     giving him cause of suspicion, about all matters connected with
     the plantation, if he has any reason to believe that all things
     are not going on right.

     Rule 7th. As the employer pays the overseer for his time and
     attention, it is not to be expected he will receive much

     Rule 8th. As the employer employs an overseer, not to please
     himself, but the employer, it will be expected that he will
     attend strictly to all his instructions. His opinion will be
     frequently asked relative to plantation matters, and
     respectfully listened to, but it is required they be given in
     a polite and respectful manner, and not urged, or insisted
     upon; and if not adopted, he must carry into effect the views
     of the employer, and with a sincere desire to produce a
     successful result. He is expected to carry on all experiments
     faithfully and carefully note the results, and he must, when
     required by the employer, give a fair trial to all new methods
     of culture, and new implements of agriculture.

     Rule 9th. As the whole stock will be under immediate charge
     of the overseer, it is expected he will give his personal
     attention to it, and will accompany the hog feeder once a week
     and feed them, and count and keep a correct number of the same.
     The hog feeder is required to attend to feeding them every

     Rule 10th. The negroes must be made to obey, and to work,
     which may be done by an overseer who attends regularly to his
     business, with very little whipping; for much whipping indicates
     a bad tempered or an inattentive manager. He must _never_, on
     any occasion, unless in self-defense, kick a negro, or strike
     him with his fist, or butt end of his whip. No unusual
     punishment must be resorted to without the employer's consent.
     He is not expected to punish the foreman, except on some
     extraordinary emergency that will not allow of delay, until
     the employer is consulted. Of this rule the foreman is to be
     kept in entire ignorance.

     Rule 11th. The sick must be attended to. When sick they are to
     make known the fact to him; if in the field, he is requested
     to send them to the employer, if at home; and if not, the
     overseer is expected to attend to them in person, or send for
     a physician if necessary. Suckling and pregnant women must be
     indulged more than others. Sucklers are to be allowed time to
     visit their children, morning, noon and evening, until they are
     eight months old, and twice a day from thence until they are
     twelve months old--they are to be kept working near their
     children. No lifting, pulling fodder, or hard work is expected
     of pregnant women.

     Rule 12th. The negroes are to appear in the field on Monday
     mornings cleanly clad. To carry out said rule they are to be
     allowed time (say one hour by sun) every Saturday evening for
     the purpose of washing their clothes.

     Rule 13th. The overseer is particularly required to keep the
     negroes as much as possible out of the rain, and from all kind
     of exposure.

     Rule 14th. It will be expected of a good manager, that he will
     constantly arrange the daily work of the negroes, so that no
     negro may wait to know what to go to doing. Small jobs that
     will not reasonably admit of delay must be forthwith attended

     Rule 15th. It is required of him, to keep the tools, ploughs,
     hoes &c. out of the weather and have all collected after they
     are done using them. The wagon and cart must be kept under a
     shed. He is expected to keep good gates, bars and fences.

     Rule 16th. The employer will give him a list of all the tools
     and farming utensils and place the same in his care, and he is
     to return them at the years' end to the employer; if any are
     broke, the pieces are expected to be returned.

     Rule 17th. He is not to keep a horse or dog against the
     employer's approbation--and dogs kept for the purpose of
     catching negroes will not be allowed under any consideration.

     Rule 18th. He is required to come to his meals at the blowing
     of the horn. It is not expected he will leave the field at
     night before the hands quit their work.

     Rule 19th. It will be expected he will not speak of the
     employer's pecuniary business, his domestic affairs, or his
     arrangements to any one. He will be expected to inform the
     employer of anything going on that may concern his interest.

     Rule 20th. He is to have no control whatever over the
     employer's domestic affairs; nor to take any privileges in
     the way of using himself, or loaning the employers property to

     Rule 21st. He is expected to be guilty of no disrespectful
     language in the employer's presence--such as vulgarity,
     swearing &c; nor is he expected to be guilty of any
     indecencies, such as spitting on the floor, wearing his hat in
     the house, sitting at the table with his coat off, or whistling
     or singing in the house (Such habits are frequently indulged
     in, in Bachelor establishments in the South). His room will be
     appropriated to him, and he will not be expected to obtrude
     upon the employer's private chamber, except on business.

     Rule 22nd. It will be expected of him that he will not get
     drunk, and if he returns home in that state he will be
     immediately discharged. He will also be immediately discharged,
     if it is ascertained he is too intimate with any of the negro

     Rule 23rd. It is distinctly understood, in the agreement with
     every overseer, should they separate, from death or other
     cause--and either is at liberty to separate from the other
     whenever dissatisfied--without giving his reasons for so doing;
     in said event the employer, upon settlement, is not expected to
     pay the cash nor settle for the year, but for the time only he
     remained in the employer's service, by note, due January next
     (with interest) pro rata, he was to pay for the year.


In spite of the many restrictions that hedged the slaves about there
were many good times on the plantation. Old Mary of the Roof plantation
described their frolics thus:

"We would sing and there was always a fiddle. I never could put up to
dance much but nobody could beat me runnin' 'Peep Squirrel'. That was a
game we made up on the plantation. The girls peeped out, then ran by the
men, and they'd be caught and twirled around. They said I was like a
kildee bird, I was so little and could run so fast. When we growed up we
walked the boys to death! They used to say we walked the heels off their
boots. We would have dances every Christmas, on different plantations. I
tell my grandchildren sometimes that my brother-in-law would carry us to
dances and wouldn' allow us to sleep, we'd dance all night long. We had
a good time, us girls!"

When the negroes got married long tables were set under the trees in the
back yard and the people from the big house came down to see how the
slaves were dressed and to wish them well.

Concerning her own marriage Mary said, "They say I was married when I
was 17 years old. I know it was after freedom. I married a boy who
belonged to the Childs plantation. I had the finest kind of marrying
dress, my father bought it for me. It had great big grapes hanging down
from the sleeves and around the skirt." She sighed and a shadow passed
over her placid old face, as she added, "I wish't I had a kep' it for my
children to saw."

A slave from the Starling Freeman plantation in South Carolina said,
"When cullud people wus married, white people give a supper. A cullud
man whut lives on de place marries 'em."

"I used to sing good myself," continued Susannah, "you could hear the
echo of my voice way out yonder, but I can't sing no more." Here
Susannah stuck out her legs, covered with long-ribbed pink stockings.
"My legs got de misery in 'em now, and my voice gone. In my mother's
house dey never trained us to sing things like the mos' o' people. We
sung the good old hymns, like, 'A Charge to Keep I have, a God to

Old Tim, who used to live on a plantation in Virginia, said in speaking
of good times before the war, "Sho', we had plenty o' banjo pickers!
They was 'lowed to play banjos and guitars at night, if de Patterolas
didn' interfere. At home de owners wouldn' 'low de Patterolas to tech
their folks. We used to run mighty fast to git home after de frolics!
Patterolas wus a club of men who'd go around and catch slaves on strange
plantations and break up frolics, and whip 'em sometimes."

We asked Aunt Ellen Campbell, who was a slave on the Eve plantation in
Richmond County, about good times in slavery days. She laughed
delightedly and said, "When anybody gwine be married dey tell de boss
and he have a cake fix. Den when Sunday come, after dey be married she
put on de white dress she be married in and dey go up to town so de boss
can see de young couple."

She was thoughtful a moment, then continued, "Den sometimes on Sadday
night we have a big frolic. De nigger fum Hammond's place and Phinizy
place, Eve place, Clayton place, D'Laigle place, all git together fer a
big dance and frolic. A lot o' de young sports used to come dere and
push de young nigger bucks aside and dance wid de wenches."

"We used to have big parties sometime," said Fannie Fulcher, a former
slave on Dr. Miller's plantation in Burke County. "No white folks--jus'
de overseer come round to see how dey git erlong. I 'member dey have a
fiddle. I had a cousin who played fer frolics, and fer de white folks,

According to Melinda Mitchell, who lived on the plantation of Rev. Allen
Dozier in Edgefield County, South Carolina, the field hands and house
servants forgot cares in merriment and dancing after the day's work was
over. When asked about her master, a Baptist preacher, condoning dancing
Melinda replied with the simple statement, "He wasn't only a preacher,
he was a religious man. De slaves danced at de house of a man who
'tended de stack, way off in de fiel' away fum de big house." They
danced to the tunes of banjos and a homemade instrument termed, "Quill",
evidently some kind of reed. It was fairly certain that the noise of
merriment must have been heard at the big house, but the slaves were not
interrupted in their frolic.

"My mammy wus de bes' dancer on de plantachun," Melinda said proudly.
"She could dance so sturdy she could balance a glass o' water on her
head an never spill a drop." She recalls watching the dancers late into
the night until she fell asleep.

She could tell of dances and good times in the big house as well as in
the quarters. The young ladies were belles. They were constantly
entertaining. One day a wandering fortune-teller came on the piazza
where a crowd of young people were gathered, and asked to tell the young
ladies' fortunes. Everything was satisfactory until he told Miss Nettie
she would marry a one-armed man. At this the young belle was so
indignant that the man was driven off and the dogs set on him. "But de
fortune teller told true-true," Melinda said. A faint ominous note crept
into her voice and her eyes seemed to be seeing events that had
transpired almost three-quarters of a century ago. "After de war Miss
Nettie did marry a one-arm man, like de fortune-teller said, a
Confederate officer, Captain Shelton, who had come back wid his sleeve


There were two legal places for selling slaves in Augusta; the Lower
Market, at the corner of Fifth and Broad Street, and the Upper Market at
the corner of Broad and Marbury Streets. The old slave quarters are
still standing in Hamburg, S.C., directly across the Savannah River from
the Lower Market in Augusta. Slaves who were to be put up for sale were
kept there until the legal days of sales.

Advertisements in the newspapers of that day seem to point to the fact
that most slave sales were the results of the death of the master, and
the consequent settlement of estates, or a result of the foreclosure of

In the Thirty-Seventh Section of the Ordinances of the City of Augusta,
August 10, 1820-July 8, 1829, is the following concerning Vendue

     "If any person acts as a Vendue Master within the limits of
     this City without a license from the City Council, he shall be
     fined in a sum not exceeding $1,000.00. There shall not be more
     than four Vendue Masters for this city. They shall be appointed
     by ballot, and their license shall expire on the day proceeding
     the 1st Saturday in October of every year. No license shall
     be issued to a Vendue Master until he has given bond, with
     securities according to the laws of this State, and also a bond
     with approved security to the Council for the faithful discharge
     of his duties in the sum of $5,000.00."

The newspapers of the time regularly carried advertisements concerning
the sale of slaves. The following is a fair sample:

     "Would sell slaves: With this farm will be sold about Thirty
     Likely Negroes mostly country born, among them a very good
     bricklayer, and driver, and two sawyers, 17 of them are fit for
     field or boat work, and the rest fine, thriving children."

The following advertisement appeared in _The Georgia Constitutionalist_
on January 17, 1769: "To be sold in Savannah on Thursday the 15th. inst.
a cargo of 140 Prime Slaves, chiefly men. Just arrived in the Scow
Gambia Captain Nicholas Doyle after a passage of six weeks directly from
the River Gambia." by Inglis and Hall.

Most of the advertisements gave descriptions of each slave, with his age
and the type of work he could do. They were generally advertised along
with other property belonging to the slave owner.

The following appeared in the Chronicle and Sentinel of Augusta on
December 23rd, 1864: "Negro Sales. At an auction in Columbus the annexed
prices were obtained: a boy 16 years old, $3,625.

"At a late sale in Wilmington the annexed prices were obtained: a girl
14 years old $5,400; a girl 22 years old, $4,850; a girl 13 years
$3,500; a negro boy, 22 years old $4,900."

Very few of the slaves interviewed had passed through the bitter
experience of being sold. Janie Satterwhite, who was born on a Carolina
plantation, and was about thirteen years old when she was freed,
remembered very distinctly when she was sold away from her parents.

"Yes'm, my Mama died in slavery, and I was sold when I was a little
tot," she said. "I 'member when dey put me on de block."

"Were you separated from your family?" we asked.

"Yes'm. We wus scattered eberywhere. Some went to Florida and some to
odder places. De Missus she die and we wus all sold at one time. Atter
dat nobody could do nothin' on de ole plantachun fer a year--till all
wus settled up. My brudder he wasn't happy den. He run away fer five

"Where was he all that time?"

"Lawd knows, honey. Hidin', I reckon, hidin in de swamp."

"Did you like your new master?"

"Honey, I wus too little to have any sense. When dat man bought me--dat
Dr. Henry, he put me in a buggy to take me off. I kin see it all right
now, and I say to Mama and Papa, 'Good-bye, I'll be back in de mawnin'.'
And dey all feel sorry fer me and say, 'She don' know whut happenin'."

"Did you ever see your family again?"

"Yes'm. Dey wusn't so far away. When Christmas come de Marster say I can
stay wid Mama de whole week."

Easter Jones, who had many bitter memories of slavery days back on the
Bennet plantation near Waynesboro, said, when asked if she was ever sold
into slavery, "Dey had me up fer sale once, but de horse run away and
broke de neck o' de man whut gwine buy me."

Harriet White, whose father was a slave, gives this account of his sale,
"Yas'm, he tell me many times 'bout when he wus put up for sale on
Warren Block (in Augusta). Father say dey put him on de block down here.
De gemmen whut bought him name Mr. Tom Crew. But when dey tryin' to sell
him--dat right durin' de war, one man say, 'No, I don' want him--he know
too much.' He'd done been down to Savannah wid de Yankees. Den my father
say, 'If you buy me you can't take me oudder de state of Georgia, 'cause
de Yankees all around."

Carrie Lewis, who was owned by Captain Phillip Ward and lived on a
plantation down in Richmond County said, "No'm, I wasn't never sold, but
my Mama was sold fum me. See, I belonged to de young girl and old
Marster fool Missus away fum de house so he git to sell my Mama."

"Did you ever see your mother afterwards?" we asked.

"No, ma'm. I wouldn' know my Mammy no more den you would."

"But were you happy on the plantation?"

A smile brightened her wrinkled old face as she replied, "I'd be a heap
better off if it was dem times now."

When we asked Ellen Campbell if she was ever sold during slavery times
she replied, "No'm. I wa'n't sold, but I know dem whut wus. Jedge
Robinson he kept a nigger trade office over in Hamburg."

"Oh yes, we remember--the old brick building."

"Yas'm, dat it. Well, all de colored people whut gonner be sold was kept
dere. Den dey brung 'em over to de market and put 'em up fer sale.
Anybody fixin' to buy 'em, 'zamines 'em to see if day all right. Looks
at de teef to tell 'bout de age."

Laura Steward, who was a slave in a Baptist preacher's family in Augusta
told some interesting things about slave sales here: "Slaves were sold
at the Augusta market, in spite of what white ladies say." She stated
that there was a long house with porches on Ellis between 7th and 8th,
where a garage now stands. In this building slaves were herded for
market. "Dey would line 'em up like horses or cows," said Laura, "and
look in de mouf at dey teef; den dey march 'em down togedder to market
in crowds, first Tuesday sale day."

Old Mary used to live on the Roof plantation with her mother, while her
father lived on a nearby plantation. She said her father tried for a
long time to have his owner buy his wife and children, until finally,
"One day Mr. Tom Perry sont his son-in-law to buy us in. You had to get
up on what they called the block, but we just stood on some steps. The
bidder stood on the ground and called out the prices. There was always a
speculator at the sales. We wus bought all right and moved over to the
Perry place. I had another young marster there. He had his own hands and
didn't sell them at all. Wouldn't none of us been sold from the Roof
place, except for my father beggin' Mr. Perry to buy us, so we wouldn't
be separated."

Susannah Wyman of the Freeman plantation in South Carolina said, "Once
de Marster tried to sell my brudder and anodder youngster fer a pair o'
mules, and our Mistis said, 'No! You don' sell my chillun for no mules!'
And he didn't sell us neider. They never sold anybody off our
plantation. But people did sell women, old like I am now--or if they
didn't have no chillun. The fus' spec-lator come along and wants to buy
'em, he kin have 'em. De Marster say, 'Bring me han's in. I want

Eugene Smith, who used to belong to Mr. Steadman Clark of Augusta said,
"I read in the papers where a lady said slaves were never sold here in
Augusta at the old market, but I saw 'em selling slaves myself. They put
'em up on something like a table, bid 'em off just like you would do
horses or cows. Dere wus two men. I kin recollect. I know one was call
Mr. Tom Heckle. He used to buy slaves, speculatin'. The other was name
Wilson. They would sell a mother from her children. That's why so many
colored people married their sisters and brothers, not knowin' till they
got to talking 'bout it. One would say: 'I remember my grandmother,' and
another would say, 'that's _my_ grandmother!' Then they'd find out they
were sister and brother."


Most of the ex-slaves interviewed were too young to have taken any part
in war activities, though many of them remembered that the best slaves
were picked and sent from each plantation to help build breastworks for
the defense of Waynesboro. On some places the Yankees were encamped and
on others the southern soldiers were entertained.

"De Yankees come through de plantation on Sunday," said Hannah Murphy, a
former slave on a Georgia plantation. "I'll never forgit dat! Dey wus
singin' Dixie, 'I wisht I wus in Dixie, look away!' Dey wus all dress in
blue. Dey sot de gin house afire, and den dey went in de lot and got all
de mules and de horses and ca'y 'em wid 'em. Dey didn't bother de smoke
house where de food wuz, and dey didn't tek no hogs. But dey did go to
de long dairy and thowed out all de milk and cream and butter and stuff.
Dey didn' bother us none. Some o' de cullard folks went wid de Yankees.
De white folks had yeared dey wuz comin' and dey had lef'--after de
Yankees all gone away, de white folks come back. De cullud folks stayed
dere a while, but de owners of de place declaimed dey wuz free, and sont
de people off. I know dat my mother and father and a lot o' people come
heah to Augusta."

Old Tim, from a plantation in Virginia, remembers when Lee was fighting
near Danville, and how frightened the negroes were at the sound of the
cannon. "They cay'd the wounded by the 'bacco factory," he said, "on de
way to de horspittle."

The northern troops came to the William Morris plantation in Burke
County. Eliza Morris, a slave, who was her master's, "right hand bough"
was entrusted with burying the family silver. "There was a battle over
by Waynesboro," Eliza's daughter explained to us. "I hear my mother
speak many times about how the Yankees come to our place." It seems that
some of the other slaves were jealous of Eliza because of her being so
favored by her master. "Some of the niggers told the soldiers that my
mother had hidden the silver, but she wouldn' tell the hidin' place. The
others were always jealous of my mother, and now they tried to made the
Yankees shoot her because she wouldn' tell where the silver was hidden.
My mother was a good cook and she fixed food for the Yankees camped on
the place, and this softened the soldiers' hearts. They burned both the
plantation houses, but they give my mother a horse and plenty of food to
last for some time after they left."

"What did your mother do after the war?" we asked.

"She spent the rest of her life cookin' for her young Mistis, Mrs. Dr.
Madden in Jacksonville. She was Cap'n Bill's daughter. That was her home
till shortly after the World War when she died."

"Did your Master live through the war?"

"Yas'm. He come home. Some of the old slaves had stayed on at the
plantation; others followed the Yankees off. Long time afterward some of
'em drifted back--half starved and in bad shape."

"'Let'em come home'", Marster said. "And them that he couldn' hire he
give patches of land to farm."

"'Member de war? Course I do!" said Easter Jones, "My Marster went to
Savannah, and dey put him in prison somewhere. He died atter he come
back, it done him so bad. I 'member my brudder was born dat Sunday when
Lee surrender. Dey name him Richmond. But I was sick de day dey came and
'nounced freedom."

Augustus Burden, a former slave on General Walker's plantation at
Windsor Springs, Ga., served as valet for his master, said, "Master was
killed at Chickamauga. When the war ceased they brought us home--our old
master's home. My old Mistis was living and we came back to the old

When the Yankees came through Georgia the Walkers and Schleys asked for
protection from gunfire. Because of school associations with Northern
officers nothing on the plantation was disturbed.

"Mrs. Jefferson Davis came there to visit the Schleys," said Augustus,
and his face lit up with enthusiasm, "She was a mighty pretty woman--a
big lady, very beautiful. She seemed to be real merry amongst the white
folks, and Miss Winnie was a pretty little baby. She was talking then."

Louis Jones was seven years old when he was freed. He said, "I kin
'member de Yankees comin'. I wasn't skeered. I wanted to see 'em. I hung
on de fence corners, and nearabouts some sich place. After freedom my Ma
didn't go 'way. She stayed on de plantation till she could make more
money cookin' some udder place. I don't think dey did anything to de
plantation whar I wus. I yeared dey cay'd out de silver and mebbe hid it
in places whar de Yankees couldn't find it."

When Ellen Campbell of the Eve plantation in Richmond County, was asked
if she remembered anything about the Yankees coming through this part of
the country, she replied:

"Yas'm, I seen 'em comin' down de street. Every one had er canteen on de
side, a blanket on de shoulder, caps cocked on one side de haid. De
Cavalry had boots on, and spurros on de boots. First dey sot de niggers
free on Dead River, den dey come on here and sot us free. Dey march
straight up Broad Street to de Planters Hotel, den dey camped on de
river. Dey stayed here six months till dey sot dis place free. When dey
campin' on de river bank we go down dere and wash dey clo'se fer a good
price. Day had hard tack to eat. Dey gib us hard tack and tell us to
soak it in water, and fry it in meat gravy. I ain't taste nothin' so
good since. Dey say, 'Dis hard tack whut we hadder lib on while we
fightin' to sot you free.'"


Although the Emancipation Proclamation was delivered on January 1st,
1863 it was not until Lee's final surrender that most of the negroes
knew they were free. The Freedman's Bureau in Augusta gave out the news
officially to the negroes, but in most cases the plantation owners
themselves summoned their slaves and told them they were free. Many
negroes stayed right with their masters.

Carrie Lewis, a slave on Captain Ward's plantation in Richmond County,
said, when asked where she went when freedom came, "Me? I didn't went
nowhere. Da niggers come 'long wid de babies and dey backs, and say I
wus free, and I tell 'em I was free already. Didn't make no diffunce to

Old Susannah from the Freeman plantation said, "When freedom come I got
mad at Marster. He cut off my hair. I was free so I come from Ca'lina to
Augusta to sue him. I walk myself to death! Den I found I couldn't sue
him over here in Georgia! I had to go back. He was jus' nachally mad
'cause we was free. Soon as I got here, dere was a lady on de street,
she tole me to come in, tek a seat. I stayed dere. Nex' mornin' I
couldn't stand up. My limbs was hurtin' all over."

Tim from the plantation in Virginia remembers distinctly when freedom
came to his people. "When we wus about to have freedom," he said, "they
thought the Yankees was a-goin' to take all the slaves so they put us on
trains and run us down south. I went to a place whut they call 'Butler'
in Georgia, then they sent me on down to the Chattahoochee, where they
were cuttin' a piece of railroad, then to Quincy, then to Tallahassee.
When the war ended I weren't 'xactly in 'Gusta, I was in Irwinville,
where they caught Mars. Jeff Davis. Folks said he had de money train,
but I never seed no gold, nor nobody whut had any. I come on up to
'Gusta and jined de Bush Arbor Springfield Church.

"When freedom came they called all the white people to the court house
first, and told them the darkies ware free. Then on a certain day they
called all the colored people down to the parade ground. They had a big
stand," explained Eugene Wesley Smith, whose father was a slave in
Augusta. "All the Yankees and some of our leading colored men got up
there and spoke, and told the negroes: "You are free. Don't steal! Now
work and make a living. Do honest work, make an honest living and
support yourself and children. There are no more masters. You are free!"

"When the colored troops came in, they came in playing:

  'Don't you see the lightning?
   Don't you hear the thunder?
   It isn't the lightning,
   It isn't the thunder
   But the buttons on the Negro uniform!'

"The negroes shouted and carried on when they heard they were free."

This story of freedom was told by Edward Glenn of Forsythe County: "A
local preacher, Walter Raleigh, used to wait by the road for me every
day, and read the paper before I give it to Mistis. One day he was
waiting for me, and instead of handing it back to me he tho'wed it down
and hollered, 'I'm free as a frog!' He ran away. I tuk the paper to
Mistis. She read it and went to cryin'. I didn't say no more. That was
during the week. On Sunday morning I was talking to my brother's wife,
who was the cook. We were talking about the Yankees. Mistis come in and
say, 'Come out in the garden with me.' When we got outside Mistis said:
'Ed, you suppose them Yankees would spill their blood to come down here
to free you niggers?'

"I said, 'I dunno, but I'se free anyhow, Miss Mary.'"

"'Shut up, sir, I'll mash your mouth!"

"That day Marster was eating, and he said, 'Doc' (they called me Doc,
'cause I was the seventh son). 'You have been a good boy. What did you
tell your Mistis?'"

"I said, 'I told her the truth, that I knowed I was free.'

"He said, 'Well, Doc, you aren't really free. You are free from me, but
you aren't of age yet, and you still belong to your father and mother.'

"One morning I saw a blue cloud of Yankees coming down the road. The
leader was waving his arms and singing:

  'Ha, ha, ha! Trabble all the day!
   I'm in the Rebel's Happy Land of Caanan.
   Needn't mind the weather,
   Jump over double trouble,
   I'm in the Rebel's Happy Land of Caanan.'

"The Yankee captain, Captain Brown, gathered all us negroes in the fair
ground, July or August after freedom, and he made a speech. Lawsy! I can
see that crowd yet, a-yelling and a-stomping! And the captain waving his
arms and shouting!

"'We have achieved the victory over the South. Today you are all free
men and free women!'

"We had everybody shouting and jumping, and my father and mother shouted
along with the others. Everybody was happy."

Janie Satterwhite's memories were very vivid about freedom. "Oh yas'm,"
she said, "my brudder comed fer me. He say, 'Jane, you free now. You
wanna go home and see Papa?' But old Mars say, 'Son, I don' know you and
you don' know me. You better let Jane stay here a while.' So he went
off, but pretty soon I slip off. I had my little black bonnet in my
hand, and de shoes Papa give me, and I started off 'Ticht, ticht; crost
dat bridge.

"I kept on till I got to my sister's. But when I got to de bridge de
river wus risin'. And I hadder go down de swamp road. When I got dere,
wus I dirty? And my sister say, 'How come you here all by yourself?' Den
she took off my clo'es and put me to bed. And I remember de next mornin'
when I got up it wus Sunday and she had my clo'es all wash and iron. De
fus' Sunday atter freedom."


As most of the ex-slaves interviewed were mere children during the
slavery period they remembered only tales that were told them by their
parents. Two bits of folk lore were outstanding as they were repeated
with many variations by several old women. One of these stories may be a
relic of race memory, dating back to the dawn of the race in Africa.
Several negroes of the locality gave different versions of this story of
the woman who got out of her skin every night. Hannah Murphy, who was
once a slave and now lives in Augusta gives this version:

"Dere was a big pon' on de plantation, and I yeared de ole folks tell a
story 'bout dat pon', how one time dere was a white Mistis what would go
out ev'y evenin' in her cay'age and mek de driver tak her to de pon'.
She would stay out a long time. De driver kep' a wonderin' whut she do
here. One night he saw her go thu' de bushes, and he crep' behin' her.
He saw her step out o' her skin. Da skin jus' roll up and lay down on de
groun', and den de Mistis disappear. De driver wus too skeered to move.
In a little while he yeared her voice sayin', 'Skinny, Skinny, don't you
know me? Den de skin jump up and dere she wus again, ez big as life. He
watch her like dat for a lot o' nights, and den he went and tole de
Marster. De Marster wus so skeered o' her he run away frum de plantation
and quit her."

Laura Stewart, who was born a slave in Virginia, gives this verson of
the same story:

"Dey always tole me de story 'bout de ole witch who git out her skin. I
ain't know it all. In dem days I guess dose kinder things went on. Dey
said while she was out ridin' wid de ole witch she lef' her skin behind
her, and when she come back, de other woman had put salt and pepper on
it; and whan she say, 'Skinny, Skinny, don't you know me?' de ole skin
wouldn't jump up, so she ain't had no skin a-tall."

"Granny," Laura's granddaughter called to her, "tell the ladies about
the Mistis what got bury."

"Oh yes," Laura recalled, "dey didn' bury her so far. A bad man went
dere to git her gold ring off her finger. She make a sound like 'Shs'
like her bref comin' out, and de man got skeered. He run off. She got up
direckly and come to de house. Dey was skeered o' dat Mistis de res' o'
her life and say she were a hant."


On one southern plantation soap was made at a certain time of the year
and left in the hollowed-out trough of a big log.

Indigo was planted for blueing. Starch was made out of wheat bran put in
soak. The bran was squeezed out and used to feed the hogs, and the
starch was saved for clothes.

A hollow stump was filled with apples when cider was to be made. A hole
was bored in the middle, and a lever put inside, which would crush the
apples. As Mary put it, "you put the apples in the top, pressed the
lever, the cider come out the spout, and my, it was good!"


Most of the old ex-slave women interviewed wore long full skirts, and
flat loose shoes. In spite of what tradition and story claim, few of the
older negroes of this district wear head clothes. Most of them wear
their wooly hair "wropped" with string. The women often wear men's
discarded slouch hats. Though many of the old woman were interviewed in
mid-summer, they wore several waists and seemed absolutely unaware of
the heat.

One man, wearing the typical dress of the poverty-stricken old person of
this district, is Tim Thornton, who used to live on the Virginia
plantation of Mrs. Lavinia Tinsley. His ragged pants are sewed up with
cord, and on his coat nails are used where buttons used to be. In the
edges of his "salt and pepper" hair are stuck matches, convenient for
lighting his pipe. His beard is bushy and his lower lip pendulous and
long, showing strong yellow teeth. His manner is kindly, and he is known
as "Old Singing Tim" because he hums spirituals all day long as he
stumps around town leaning on a stick.


Plantations owned by Dr. Balding Miller in Burke County had about eight
hundred slaves. Governor Pickens of South Carolina was said to have had
about four hundred on his various plantations. The William Morris
plantations in Burke County had about five hundred slaves.


Flanders, Ralph Betts
Plantation Slavery in Georgia.
Chapel Hill: The University Press of N.C., 326 pages,
p. 1933, c. 1933, pp. 254-279.

Hotchkiss, William A.
Statute Laws of Georgia and State Papers;
Savannah, Ga.; John M. Cooper, pub., 990 pages, p. 1845, c. 1845,
pp. 810, 817, 838, 839, 840.

Rutherford, John
Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia
Savannah, Ga.: Samuel T. Chapman, State Printer,
620 pages, p. 1854, c. 1854, p. 103.

Jones, J.W., Editor,
Southern Cultivator
Augusta, Ga.: J.W. and W.S. Jones, pubs., Vol. 1, 1843.

Ordinances of the City Council of Augusta.
August 10, 1820; July 8, 1829; Feb. 7, 1862.

The Daily Chronicle & Sentinel
Vol. XXVIII. No. 306.
Augusta, Ga., Dec. 23, 1864.



Written by:
Louise Oliphant
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Ga.

Edited by:
John N. Booth
District Supervisor,
Federal Writers' Project
Augusta, Ga.

In recalling habits of work and play, marriage customs, and like
memories of Southern life before the Civil War, Richmond County's
ex-slaves tell varied stories. One said: "I didn't start workin' 'til I
was 'bout nine years old. Before that I had watched chickens, carried in
wood, gathered eggs and such light work as that. But when I was nine I
started workin' in the field. I didn't plow then because I was too
small, but I hoed and did other light jobs.

"Our marster made our shoes for us out of raw cow hide. Us got two pairs
of shoes a year, one for every day and one for Sunday. Us made
everythin' us needed. The old women, who couldn't work in the field,
would make cloth on the looms and the spinnin' wheels. Us didn't have
chairs; us made benches and stools to sit on. Us didn't know what swings
was. Us used to tie ropes in trees and swing in 'em.

"Everybody had his own tin plate and tin cup to eat out of. On Saturday
they would give everybody three pounds of meat, twelve pounds of flour,
twelve pounds of meal, and one quart of syrup. This was to last a week.
Us always had plenty to eat 'til the war started, then us went hungry
many a day because they took the food and carried it to the soldiers. Us
stole stuff from everybody durin' that time.

"They always blowed a horn for you to go to work by and get off for
dinner by and stop work in the evening by. When that horn blowed, you
couldn't get them mules to plow another foot. They just wouldn't do it.
Us always et dinner out in the yard, in the summer time, at a long
bench. In cold weather us always went inside to eat. Whenever us didn't
have enough to eat us would tell the overseer and he seed to it that us
got plenty. Our overseers was colored."

Another old woman said she "started working at the age of seven as a
nurse. I nursed, made fire in the house and around the wash pots 'til I
was old enough to go to work in the fields. When I got big enough I hoed
and later plowed. Us didn't wait 'til sun up to start workin', us
started as soon as it was light enough. When it come to field work, you
couldn't tell the women from the men. Of course my marster had two old
women on the place and he never made them work hard, and he never did
whip' em. They always took care of the cookin' and the little chillun.

"I'll tell you one thing, they had better doctors then than they do now.
When folks had high blood pressure the doctors would cut you in your
head or your arm and folks would get over it then. They took better care
of themselves. Whenever anybody was caught in the rain they had to go to
the marster's house and take some medicine. They had somethin' that
looks like black draught looks now, and they would put it in a gallon
jug, fill it a little over half full of boiling water, and finish
fillin' it with whiskey. It was real bitter, but it was good for colds.
Young folk didn't die then like they do now. Whenever anybody died it
was a old person.

"I know more about conjuration than I'll ever be able to tell. I didn't
believe in it at one time, but I've seen so much of it that I can almost
look at a sick person and tell whether he is conjured or not. I wouldn't
believe it now if I hadn't looked at snakes come out of my own sister's
daughter. She married a man that had been goin' 'round with a old woman
who wasn't nothin'. Well one day this woman and my niece got in a fight
'bout him, and my niece whipped her. She was already mad with my niece
'bout him, and after she found she couldn't whip her she decided to get
her some way and she just conjured her.

"My niece was sick a long time and we had 'bout seven or eight diff'unt
doctors with her, but none of 'em done her any good. One day us was
sittin' on the porch and a man walked up. Us hadn't never seen him
before, and he said he wanted to talk with the lady of the house. I
'vited him in and he asked to speak to me alone. So I went in the front
room and told him to come on in there. When he got there he said just
like this: 'You have sickness don't you?' I said, 'yes.' Then he said:
'I know it, and I come by here to tell you I could cure her. All I want
is a chance, and you don't have to pay me a cent 'til I get her back on
her feet, and if I don't put her back on her feet you won't be out one
cent. Just promise you'll pay me when the work is done.' I told him to
come back the next day 'cause I would have to talk with her husband and
her mother 'fore I could tell him anythin'.

"Us all agreed to let him doctor on her since nobody else had did her
any good. Two days later he brought her some medicine to take and told
us to have her say: 'relieve me of this misery and send it back where it
come from.' Seven days from the day she started takin' this medicine she
was up and walkin' 'round the room. 'Fore that time she had been in bed
for more than five weeks without puttin' her feet on the floor. Well
three days after she took the first medicine, she told us she felt like
she wanted to heave. So we gave her the bucket and that's what come out
of her. I know they was snakes because I know snakes when I see 'em. One
was about six inches long, but the others was smaller. He had told us
not to be scared 'bout nothin' us saw, so I wasn't, but my sister was.
After that day my niece started to get better fast. I put the snakes in
a bottle and kept 'em 'til the man come back and showed 'em to him. He
took 'em with him. It was 'bout three weeks after this that the other
woman took sick and didn't live but 'bout a month."

Roy Redfield recalls that "when a person died several people would come
in and bathe the body and dress it. Then somebody would knock up some
kind of box for 'em to be buried in. They would have the funeral and
then put the body on a wagon and all the family and friends would walk
to the cemetery behind the wagon. They didn't have graves like they does
now; they would dig some kind of hole and put you in it, then cover you

"In olden times there was only a few undertakers, and of course there
warn't any in the country; so when a person died he was bathed and
dressed by friends of the family. Then he was laid on a ironing board
and covered with a sheet.

"For a long while us knowed that for some cause a part of the person's
nose or lips had been et off, but nobody could find out why. Finally
somebody caught a cat in the very act. Most people didn't believe a cat
would do this, but everybody started watchin' and later found out it was
so. So from then on, 'til the caskets come into use, a crowd of folks
stayed awake all night sittin' up with the dead."

One old woman lived on a plantation where "every Saturday they would
give you your week's 'lowance. They would give you a plenty to eat so
you could keep strong and work. They weighed your meat, flour, meal and
things like that, but you got all the potatoes, lard and other things
you wanted. You got your groceries and washed and ironed on Saturday
evenin' and on Saturday night everybody used that for frolicin'. Us
would have quiltin's, candy pullin's, play, or dance. Us done whatever
us wanted to. On these nights our mist'ess would give us chickens or
somethin' else so us could have somethin' extra. Well, us would dance,
quilt, or do whatever us had made up to do for 'bout three hours then us
would all stop and eat. When us finished eatin' us would tell tales or
somethin' for a while, then everybody would go home. Course us have
stayed there 'til almost day when us was havin' a good time.

"My marster wanted his slaves to have plenty of chillun. He never would
make you do much work when you had a lot of chillun, and had them fast.
My ma had nineteen chillun, and it looked like she had one every ten
months. My marster said he didn't care if she never worked if she kept
havin' chillun like that for him. He put ma in the kitchen to cook for
the slaves who didn't have families.

"People who didn't have families would live in a house together, but
whenever you married you lived in a house to yourself. You could fix up
your house to suit yourself. The house where everybody lived that warn't
married, had 'bout a dozen and a half beds in it. Sometimes as many as
three and four slept in a bed together when it was cold. The others had
to sleep on the floor, but they had plenty of cover. Us didn't have
anythin' in this house but what was made by some of us. There warn't but
one room to this house with one fire place in it. Us never et in this
room, us had another house where everybody from this house and from the
house for the men who warn't married, et. Our beds was diff'unt from
these you see now. They was made by the slaves out of rough lumber. Our
marster seed to it that all the chillun had beds to sleep in. They was
taken good care of. Us had no such things as dressers or the like. Us
didn't have but a very few chairs 'cause the men didn't have time to
waste makin' chairs, but us had plenty of benches. Our trunks was made
by the men.

"People who had families lived by theyselves, but they didn't have but
one room to their houses. They had to cook and sleep in this one room,
and as their chillun got old enough they was sent over to the big house.
Everybody called it that. The house you lived in with your family was
small. It had a fire place and was only big enough to hold two beds and
a bench and maybe a chair. Sometimes, if you had chillun fast enough,
five and six had to sleep in that other bed together. Mothers didn't
stay in after their chillun was born then like they do now. Whenever a
child was born the mother come out in three days afterwards if she was
healthy, but nobody stayed in over a week. They never stayed in bed but
one day.

"When they called you to breakfast it would be dark as night. They did
this so you could begin workin' at daybreak. At twelve o'clock they
blowed the horn for dinner, but they didn't have to 'cause everybody
knowed when it was dinner time. Us could tell time by the sun. Whenever
the sun was over us so us could almost step in our shadow it was time to
eat. When us went in to eat all the victuals was on the table and the
plates was stacked on the table. You got your plate and fork, then got
your dinner. Some would sit on the floor, some in chairs, and some would
sit on the steps, but mos' everybody held their plates in their laps.
Whenever any of the slaves had company for dinner, us was allowed to set
the table and you and your company would eat at the table. In our
dinin'-room, we called it mess house, us only had one long table, one
small table, a stove, some benches, a few chairs, and stools. Whenever
us got out of forks the men would make some out of wood to be used 'til
some more could be bought. The food we got on Saturday would be turned
over to the cook.

"When you married, your husband didn't stay with you like they do now.
You had to stay with your marster and he had to stay with his. He was
'lowed to come every Saturday night and stay with you and the chillun
'til Monday mornin'. If he was smart enough to have a little garden or
to make little things like little chairs for his chillun to sit in or
tables for 'em to eat on and wanted you to have 'em 'fore he could get
back to see you, they would be sent by the runner. They had one boy they
always used just to go from one place to the other, and they called him
a runner. The runner wouldn't do anythin' else but that.

"Us made everythin' us wore. Us knitted our socks and stockin's. Things
was much better then than they are now. Shoes lasted two and three
years, and clothes didn't tear or wear out as easy as they do now. Us
made all our cloth at night or mos' times durin' the winter time when us
didn't have so much other work to do.

"When a person died he was buried the same day, and the funeral would be
preached one year later. The slaves made your coffin and painted it with
any kind of paint they could find, but they usually painted the outside
box black.

"The slaves 'tended church with their marsters and after their service
was over they would let the slaves hold service. They always left their
pastor to preach for us and sometimes they would leave one of their
deacons. When they left a deacon with us one of our preachers would
preach. They only had two kinds of song books: Baptist Cluster, and
Methodist Cluster. I kept one of these 'til a few years ago. Our
preachers could read some, but only a very few other slaves could read
and write. If you found one that could you might know some of his
marster's chillun had slipped and learned it to him 'cause one thing
they didn't 'low was no colored folk to learn to read and write. Us had
singin' classes on Sunday, and at that time everybody could really sing.
People can't sing now."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Georgia Narratives, Part 4" ***

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