Source: Slave Narratives Vol. XIV. South Carolina, Part
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From
Interviews with Former Slaves. Contributed to South Carolina, Genealogy Trails by Kim Paterson.
"I was 'bout nine year ole when de big war broke loose. My pa and ma 'longed to de Scotts what libbed in Jonesville Township. When I got big 'nough to work, I was gib to de youngest Scott boy. Soon atter dis, Sherman come through Union County. No ma'm, I nebber seed Sherman but I seed some of his soldiers. Dat's de time I run off in de wood and not narry a soul knowed whar I was till de dus' had done settled in de big road.
"Every Sunday, Marse Scott sent us to church in one of his waggins. White folks rid to church in de buggy and Marse went on de big saddle hoss. 'Bout dis time, Marse Scott went to Columbia to git coffee and sugar. He stay mos' two weeks, kaize he drive two fine hosses to de buggy 'long wid a long hind end to fetch things to and fro in. De roads was real muddy and de hosses haf to res' ever night. Den in Columbia, he would have a little 'joyment befo' he come back home."
Source: Miss Dorothy Lambright, W. Main St., Union, S. C. (Story told her by "Uncle Peter" Arthur.) Information by Caldwell Sims, Union, S. C.
From Field Notes
Spartanburg, Dist. 4
April 28. 1937
"I sho members when de soldiers come home from de war. All de women folks, both black as well as white wuz so glad to see 'em back dat we jus jumped up and hollered 'Oh, Lawdy, God bless you.' When you would look around a little, you would see some widout an arm or maybe dey would be a walkin' wid a cruch or a stick. Den you would cry some widout lettin your white folks see you. But Jane, de worsest time of all fer us darkies wuz when de Ku Klux killed Dan Black. We wuz little chilluns a playin' in Dans house. We didn't know he had done nothin' ginst de white folks. Us wuz a playin by de fire jus as nice when something hit on de wall. Dan, he jump up and try to git outten de winder. A white spooky thing had done come in de doo' right by me. I was so scairt dat I could not git up. I had done fell straight out on de flo'. When Dan stick his head outten dat winder something say bang and he fell right down in de flo'. I crawles under de bed. When I got dar, all de other chilluns wuz dar to, lookin' as white as ashed dough from hickory wood. Us peeped out and den us duck under de bed agin. Ain't no bed ebber done as much good as dat one. Den a whole lot of dem come in de house. De wuz all white and scairy lookin'. It still makes de shivvers run down my spine and here I is ole and you all a settin' around wid me and two mo' wars done gone since dat awful time. Dan Black, he wo'nt no mo' kaise dey took dat nigger and hung him to a simmon tree. Dey would not let his folks take him down either. He jus stayed dar till he fell to pieces.
"After dat when us chilluns seed de Ku Klux a comin', us would take an' run breakneck speed to de nearest wood. Dar we would stay till dey wuz plum out o' sight and you could not even hear de horses feet. Dem days wuz worse'n de war. Yes Lawd, dey wuz worse'n any war I is ebber heard of.
"Was not long after dat fore de spooks wuz a gwine round ebber whar. When you would go out atter dark, somethin' would start to a haintin' ye. You would git so scairt dat you would mighty ni run every time you went out atter dark; even iffin you didn't see nothin'. Chile, don't axe me what I seed. Atter all dat killin' and a burnin' you know you wuz bliged to see things wid all dem spirits in distress a gwine all over de land. You see, it is like dis, when a man gits killed befo he is done what de good Lawd intended fer him to do, he comes back here and tries to find who done him wrong. I mean he don' come back hisself, but de spirit, it is what comes and wanders around. Course, it can't do nothin', so it jus scares folks and haints dem."
Source: "Aunt" Millie Bates, 25 Hamlet street, Union, S.
Spartanburg, Dist. 4
July 26, 1937
"I was raised in the wood across the road about 200 yards from here. I was very mischievous. My parents were honest and were Christians. I loved them very much. My father was William Bevis, who died at the age of eighty. Miss Zelia Hames of Pea Ridge was my mother. My parents are buried at Bethlehem Methodist Church. I was brought up in Methodism and I do not know anything else. I had two brothers and four sisters. My twin sister died last April 1937. She was Fannie Holcombe. I was in bed with pneumonia at the time of her death and of course I could not go to the funeral. For a month, I was unconscious.
"When I was a little girl I played 'Andy-over' with a ball, in the moonlight. Later I went to parties and dances. Calico, chambric and gingham were the materials which our party dresses were made of.
"My grandmother, Mrs. Phoebe Bevis used to tell Revolutionary stories and sing songs that were sung during that period. Grandmother knew some Tories. She always told me that old Nat Gist was a Tory ... that is the way he got rich.
"Hampton was elected governor the morning my mother died. Father went in his carriage to Jonesville to vote for Hampton. We all thought that Hampton was fine.
"When I was a school girl I used the blue back speller. My sweetheart's
name was Ben Harris. We went to Bethlehem to school. Jeff and Bill Harris
were our teachers. I was thirteen. We went together for six years. The
Confederate War commenced. He was very handsome. He had black eyes and
black hair. I had seven curls on one
"He wanted to marry me then, but father would not let us marry. He kissed me good bye and went off to Virginia. He was a picket and was killed while on duty at Mars Hill. Bill Harris was in a tent nearby and heard the shot. He brought Ben home. I went to the funeral. I have never been much in-love since then.
"I hardly ever feel sad. I did not feel especially sad during the war. I made socks, gloves and sweaters for the Confederate soldiers and also knitted for the World War soldiers. During the war, there were three looms and three shuttles in our house.
"I went often to the muster grounds at Kelton to see the soldiers drill and to flirt my curls at them. Pa always went with me to the muster field. Once he invited four recruits to dine with us. We had a delicious supper. That was before the Confederacy was paralyzed. Two darkies waited on our table that night, Dorcas and Charlotte. A fire burned in our big fireplace and a lamp hung over the table. After supper was over, we all sat around the fire in its flickering light.
"My next lover was Jess Holt and he was drowned in the Mississippi River. He was a carpenter and was building a warf on the river. He fell in and was drowned in a whirlpool."
Source: Miss Caroline Bevis (W. 96), County Home, Union, S.
Spartanburg, Dist. 4
Feb. 7, 1938
REMINISCENCES: THE RED SHIRTS
"The Red Shirts had a big parade and barbecue in Spartanburg. They met at the courthouse. There were about 500 Red Shirts, besides others who made up a big crowd. I remember four leaders who came from Union County. One of the companies was led by Squire Gilliam Jeter, and one by Squire Bill Lyles. The company from the city was led by Capt. James Douglass and 'Buck' Kelley from Pea Ridge was there with his company.
"Everything drilled in Spartanburg that day. The speakers of the day from Union were Squire Jeter and Capt. Douglass. While they were speaking, old Squire George Tucker from lower Fish Dam came with his company. Mr. Harrison Sartor, father of Will Sartor, was one of the captains. We saw Gen. Wade Hampton and old man Ben Tillman there.
"About this time I was bound out to Mr. Jim Gregory, a blacksmith. The wealthy landlords bought negroes. Mr. Jim Gregory was the blacksmith for old Johnny Meador and Aunt Polly, his wife. He told me that Uncle Johnny bought a man, Heath, for $3,500. He also bought Heath's wife, Morrow, for Aunt Polly, but I don't know what he paid. The Meador house is just this side of Simstown. Aunt Polly's father, Triplett Meador, built that mansion. The brick were made in a home kiln which was near the house. Aunt Polly was a little girl when the house was built. While the brick for the sitting-room fireplace were still wet, he made little Polly step on each one of them to make the impression of her feet. So those foot prints in that fireplace are Aunt Polly's when she was five years old. She grew up there and married, and lived there until her death.
"Miss Ida Knight's house (formerly the Sims house) was built not later than 1840. Dr. Thompson lived there first. Dr. Billy Sims married Dr. Thompson's sister, Miss Patsy, and that is how the house got into the Sims family. The old post office was known as Simstown, and I believe it was up near the Nat Gist mansion. Simstown was the name for the river community for years, because the Sims settled there and they were equally or more prominent than the Thompsons and Gists in that community. All the Sims men were country doctors.
"To this community at the close of the Confederate War, came old man Ogle Tate, his wife, and Ben Shell, as refugees, fleeing from the Yankees. When they came into the community, Nat Gist gave them a nice house to live in on his plantation.
"Mr. Gregory got all the sheet iron used on the Meador and Gist plantations, and also on the Sims and Thompson plantations. Plows were made in his blacksmith shop from 10 inch sheet iron. The sheet was heated and beaten into shape with his hammer. After cooling, the tools could be sharpened. Horse and mule shoes were made from slender iron rods, bought for that purpose. They were called 'slats', and this grade of iron was known as 'slat iron'. The shoe was moulded while hot, and beaten into the correct shape to fit the animal's foot. Those old shoes fit much better than the store-bought ones of more recent days. The horseshoe nails were made there, too. In fact, every farm implement of iron was made from flat or sheet iron.
"I spun the first pants that I wore. Ma sewed them for me, and wove and finished them with her hands. She made the thread that they were sewed with by hand on the loom. I made cloth for all my shirts. I wore home-made cotton underwear in summer and winter, for we were poor. Of course my winter clothes were heavier.
"We raised some sheep, and the winter woolens were made from the wool sheared from the sheep every May. Wool was taken to the factory at Bivensville and there made into yarn. Often, cotton was swapped for yarn to warp at home. Then ma ran it off on spools for her loom. 'Sleigh hammers' were made from cane gotten off the creek banks and bottoms.
"Aunt Polly Meador had no patrollers on her place. She would not allow one there, for she did her own patrolling with her own whip and two bull dogs. She never had an overseer on her place, either. Neither did she let Uncle Johnny do the whipping. Those two dogs held them and she did her own whipping. One night she went to the quarter and found old 'Bill Pea Legs' there after one of her negro women. He crawled under the bed when he heard Aunt Polly coming. Those dogs pulled old 'Pea Legs' out and she gave him a whipping that he never forgot. She whipped the woman, also.
"Morg was Morrow's nickname. Morg used to sit on the meat block and cut the meat for Aunt Polly to give out. Morg would eat her three pounds of raw meat right there. Uncle Johnny asked her what she would do all the week without any meat, she said that she would take the skin and grease her mouth every morning; then go on to the field or house and do her work, and wait until the next Saturday for more.
"I do not know how old I am, but I well remember when Wheeler's men
came to the plantation. They tore up everything. We heard that they were
coming, so we dug holes and buried the meat and everything we could. We
hid them so well that we could never find some of them ourselves. Wheeler
and 36 men stopped on the Dick Jeter place. I think that was in 1864. The
Jeter place touched Miss Polly's plantation. The Jeter place was right
near Neal Shoals on Broad River. Mr. Jeter had the biggest gin house in
the entire township. Old Mr. Dick was at home because he was too old to go
to the war. Pa was still in the war then, of course. Ma and I and one of
"We saw Wheeler and his men when they stopped at that gin house. They began to ransack immediately. Wheeler gave some orders to his men and galloped off towards our house. The negroes ran but ma and I stayed in the house. Wheeler rode up in front of the door and spoke to my mother. He said that he had to feed his men and horses and asked her where the corn was. She told him that the gin house and the crib which contained the corn did not belong to her, so she could not give him the keys. At that he ordered his men to remove a log from the crib. By this means they broke into the crib and got all the corn. They then ransacked the house and took everything there was to eat. They tore out the big cog wheel in the gin and camped in it for the night. Next morning they set fire to the gin and then galloped away. Soon Mr. Jeter's big gin had gone up in flames. They took all of our corn and all of the fodder, 200 bundles that we had in the barn, away with them."
Source: Mr. John Boyd, County Home, Union, R. F. D.
Spartanburg, Dist. 4
Nov. 10, 1937
Edited by: Elmer Turnage
STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES
"I is gwine over to Tosch to see Maria. Everybody know Maria. She go by Rice—Maria Rice. She sont fer me to cure her misery. First, I went from my home in lower Cross Keys, across de Enoree, to see Maria. When I reached dar whar she stay, dey tell me dat her daughter over to Tosch. Done come and got her.
"A kind friend dat de Lawd put in my path fetched me back across de Enoree and over to Tosch to Maria's gal's house. I is gwine straight over dar and lay my hand on Maria and rid her of dat misery dat she sont word was ailing her all dis spring. Don't make no diff'uns whar you hurts—woman, man or suckling babe—if you believes in de holler of my hand, it'll ease you, allus do it. De Bible say so, dat's why it be true. Ain't gwine to tell you nothing but de truth and de whole truth, so help me Jesus. Gone 65 years, I is been born agin dat long; right over in Padgett's Creek church, de white folks' church, dat's what de Lawd tuck my sins away and washed me clean agin wid His blood. Dat's why I allus sticks to de truth, I does.
"Dey all 'lows dat I is gwine on 89, and I has facts to believe it am true. I 'longed to Marse Jesse Briggs. Did you know dat it was two Jesse Briggs? Yes sir, sho was two Jesse Briggses.
"What I gwine to relate to you is true, but in respect to my old Marse,
and in de case dat dem what reads dat book won't understand, you needs not
to write dis statement down. My marster was called 'Black Jesse', but de
reason fer dat was to keep him from gitting mixed up wid de other Jesse.
Dat is de secret of de thing. Now dat's jes'
"In Union County is whar I was born and raised, and it's whar I is gwine to be buried. Ain't never left de county but once in my life, and if de Lawd see fitten, I ain't gwine to leave it no mo', 'cept to reach de Promise Land. Lawd! Lawd! De Promise Land, dat's whar I is gwine when I leaves Union County. Dey carried me a hundred miles to cure a sick woman, onliest time I ever left Union County. I loves it and I is fit throughout and enduring de time dem Yankees tried to git de county, to save it. What is I gwine to leave it fer? Mr. Perrin and all de white folks is good to me since my marse done gone and left his earthly home. And he is waiting up dar wid Missie to see me agin. Dat I is sho of.
"Listen brother, de Lawd is setting on His throne in Glory. He hear
every word dat I gwine to tell you. Folks fergits dat when dey talks real
often sometimes, don't dey? I put my hand on any 'flux' man or woman and
removes de pain, if dey have faith in my hand. I don't tell nothing but de
truth. I was born on Gist Briggs' plantation in Union County, in de lower
section of Cross Keys. Marse Sexton and all dem good folks in lower Keys
says dat I sho is 88. Give my name right flat, it's George Briggs; giving
it round, it like dis, George McDuffie Briggs. My papa's name was Ike
Wilburn, and my mother's name was Margaret Briggs. Pa 'longed to Marse
Lige Wilburn. Mama 'longed to Jesse (Black Jesse) Briggs. Dey both born
and raised in Union County. Dese was my brothers and sisters, coming in de
order dey was born to my parents in: Charlie, Dave, Aaron, Tom, Noah,
Charlotte, Polly, Fannie, Mattie, Horace, Cassie. I'm de oldest, and
Cassie and me lives in Union County. Fannie and Mattie lives in
"Marse and Missus was good to us all. Missus name was Nancy. She die early and her grave is in Cross Keys at de Briggs graveyard. Be still! Lemme git my mind together so dat I don't git mixed up and can git you de Briggses together. Here 'tis: Cheney and Lucindy, Lucindy married a Floyd from Spartanburg, and de Floyds lived at de Burn't factory. Cheney Briggs had a son, Henry Briggs.
"Not so fast, fer I'se gwine to start way back, dat time when us was lil' darky boys way back in slavery. We started to work wid de marster's mules and hosses. When us was real little, we played hoss. Befo' Cheney Briggs went to Arkansas he was our play hoss. His brother, Henry, was de wagoner and I was de mule. Henry was little and he rid our backs sometimes. Henry rid old man Sam, sometimes, and old man Sam jes' holler and haw haw at us chilluns. Dis was in sech early childhood dat it is not so I can 'zactly map out de exact age us was den; anyway, from dis we rid de gentle hosses and mules and larn't how to feed dem. Every word dat I tells you is de truth, and I is got to meet dat word somewhars else; and fer dat reason, de truth is all dat dis old man ever tells.
"In dat day we lived in a log cabin or house. Sometimes us never had
nothing to do. Our house had only one room, but some of de houses had two
rooms. Our'n had a winder, a do', and a common fireplace. Now dey makes a
fireplace to scare de wood away. In old days dey made fireplaces to take
care of de chilluns in de cold weather. It warm de whole house, 'cause it
was so big and dar was plenty wood. Wood wasn't no problem den, and it
ain't no problem yet out in de lower Keys. In town
"I sho can histronize de Confederates. I come along wid de Secession flag and de musterings. I careful to live at home and please de Marse. In de war, I'se mo' dan careful and I stick close to him and please him, and he mo' dan good. Us did not git mobbed up like lots of dem did.
"When Tice Myers' chilluns was born, he had a house built wid a up-stairs. But never no stage coach stopped dar as I ever heard tell about, and I done saw 75 years at Padgett's Creek.
"Way 'tis, from de bundle of de heart, de tongue speaketh. Been in service reg'lar since Monday. I went to Neal Greege's house but she wasn't dar. I is speaking 'bout Ria (Maria Rice). She done gone to town. At de highway, de Lawd prepared a friend to carry me to Union, and when I got dar I take and lay hands on Ria Rice, she laying down and suffering, and I sot down and laid my hand on her. We never say nothing, jes' pray. She be real quiet, and atter while, she riz up and take a breath. She kept on a setting up fer so long dat her husband make her lay back down fer fear dat she git worser. I stay dar all through de night and she sleep sound and wake up dis morning feeling like a new woman.
"Befo' breakfast, here is de words of praise I lifted to de Lawd, over dar on Tosch. You set down de coser (chorus): 'First to de graveyard; den to de Jedgement bar!' Is you got dat verser (verses)? Den git dis: 'All de deacons got to go; all de members got to go; all de sinners got to go.' Mo' 'longs to it, but dat's all I takes when I is praising Him fer relieving pain through me. (He sings each line five times. He takes off his hat; bows; holds his hands over his head, and closes his eyes while singing. His hair is snow white.)
"Lawd, help me dis morning! Here's another first line to one of our songs: 'All dem preachers got to go'.
"Nehemiah, when he wid de king, de king axed him to reveal de wall whar his father was buried. Nehemiah did what de king had done axed him. I 'tends Galilee Baptist church in lower Cross Keys; and at Sedalia, I goes to New Hope Methodist church, but I don't know nothing else but Baptist. We peoples is barrence (barren of the Holy Spirit), but not God; He, Hisself, is born of God, and all is of de same source and by dat I means de Spirit. All has to be born of de Spirit to become chilluns of God. Romans, Chap. 6, 'lows something like dis: 'He dat is dead in sin, how is it dat he can continue in sin?' Dat tell us dat every man, white or black, is de child of God. And it is Christ dat is buried in baptism, and we shall be buried in like manner. If Christ did not rise, den our preaching is in vain. And if we is not born agin, why den we is lost and our preaching is in vain.
"In picking up de New Testament, consider all dat you hear me arguing and saying is from a gift and not from edication. Romans 6, 'lows: 'Speak plain words, not round words, kaise all de round words is fer dem dat is edicated.' Jacob had twelve sons. Dey went and bundled up deir wheat, and eleven bundles bowed to de one. Dat Joseph's bundle what he done up. Other brothers up and got and sold Joseph into captivity to de Egyptians. Dat throw'd Jacob to send Reuben to Egypt. Den dey bowed to Jacob and his sons. It run on and on till dey all had to go to Egypt, and all of dem had to live under Joseph.
"When I was a little shaver and come to myself. I was sleeping in a
corded bed. (He scratched his head) I jes' studying fer a minute; can't
'zactly identify my grandpa, but
"All my life I is stayed in de fur (far) end of Union County whar it borders Laurens, wid de Enoree dividing de two counties. It is right dar dat I is plowed and hoed and raised my craps fer de past 75 years, I reckons. Lawd have mercy! No, I doesn't recalls de names of none of dem mules. Dat's so fur back dat I is jes' done forgot, dat's all. But I does recall 'fur back' things de best, sometimes. Listen good now. When I got big and couldn't play 'round at chillun's doings, I started to platting cornshucks and things fer making hoss and mule collars, and scouring-brooms and shoulder-mats. I cut hickory poles and make handles out of dem fer de brooms. Marse had hides tanned, and us make buggy whips, wagon whips, shoe strings, saddle strings and sech as dat out of our home-tanned leather. All de galluses dat was wo' in dem days was made by de darkies.
"White oak and hickory was split to cure, and we made fish baskets, feed baskets, wood baskets, sewing baskets and all kinds of baskets fer de Missus. All de chair bottoms of straight chairs was made from white oak splits, and de straight chairs was made in de shop. You made a scouring brush like dis: (He put his hands together to show how the splits were held) By splitting a width of narrow splits, keep on till you lay a entire layer of splits; turn dis way; den dat way, and den bind together and dat hold dem like you want dem to stay. Last, you work in a pole as long as you want it fer de handle, and bind it tight and tie wid de purtiest knots.
"I git money fer platting galluses and making boot strings and other little things. Allus first, I desires to be well qualified wid what I does. I is gwine to be qualified wid everything dat I does, iffen I does it fer money or no. Dat's de reason white people has allus give me words of encouragement.
"Now I gwine to sing a song fer Miss Polly, kaise she de grand-daughter of de late Sheriff Long, and I goes to see her grandma at de Keys (Cross Keys House). Dar she come now.
"How is you dis morning, Miss Polly? De Lawd sho does shower you, Miss Polly, and dat's de reason I is gwine to sing fer you dis morning. You'll be able to tell Mr. Jimmie (her father) dat Uncle George sing fer you, 'Jesus Listening All De Day Long'.
"Jesus listening all de day long to hear some sinner pray.
He sang these lines over three times and then bowing, said: "Ain't it glory dat we can live whar de Lawd can use us? Dat's power. A strong man entereth in; a weak man cometh out. Dat represent Christ gwine into your heart.
"Sho I can remember when dey had de mustering grounds at de Keys. Dar
day mustered and den dey turn't in and practiced drilling dem soldiers
till dey larn't how to march and to shoot de Yankees. Drilling, dat's de
proper word, not practice, I knows, if I ain't ed'icated. Dey signed me to
go to de 16th regiment, but I never reached de
"Don't know nothing 'bout no militia to make no statement, but it went on and turn't back. Another regiment had a barbecue somewhars in Union County befo' it went off to war; might a been de 18th regiment, but I does not feel dat I can state on dat.
"My soul reaches from God's foot-stool up to his heavenly home. I can histronize de poor white folks' wives and chilluns enduring de time of de Civil War fer you. When dese poor white men went to de war, dey left deir little chillun and deir wives in de hands of de darkies dat was kind and de rich wives of our marsters to care fer. Us took de best care of dem poor white dat us could under de circumstances dat prevailed.
"We was sont to Sullivan's Island, but befo' we reached it, de Yankees done got it and we won't 'lowed to cross in '64. But jes' de same, we was in service till dey give Capt. Franklin Bailey 'mission to fetch us home. Dar we had to git 'mission fer everything, jes' as us niggers had to git 'mission to leave our marster's place at home in Union County. Capt. Bailey come on back to Cross Keys wid us under his protection, and we was under it fer de longest time atter we done got home.
"Fer 65 years I been licensed as a preacher, and fer longer dan dat I been a member of Padgett's Creek Baptist church. Mo' work I does, mo' work I has to do. You know how to pray. Well, you does not know how to make polish out of pinders.
"I ain't ed'icated yet, but even Lige what teaches school out to de Keys (de big black school), dat big black buck dat teaches de chilluns deir 'rithmetic; even he couldn't do dis here one. A heap of ed'icated folks can't give it. Here it is: 'What's de biggest figger in de figger ten?'"
With his old black, rough and gnarled forefinger he drew on the table the figure 1. "Now you see dat? Dat's de figger 1. A naught ain't nothing by itself or multiplied by other naughts; but set it down in front of de figger 1, and it takes on de value 9. Dar you is got ten—one and nine is ten. Dat naught becomes something. I is old, and I ain't had narry bit of schooling, but I likes to be close to de orchard, and I knows it's dar by de smell of it. Dat's de way I is when I gits along side ed'icated folks—I knows dat dey is.
"It's like dat sum dem scholars couldn't git; standing alone dat naught ain't worth nothing, but set it up against dat which is of value and it takes on value. Set a naught ag'inst dat which is one and you has ten; set up another naught dar and you has a hundred. Now if somebody was to give me a note worth $10, and I found room to add another naught along side of de first; den dem two naughts what ain't worth nothing by deirselves gives de note de value of $99 if dey is sot along wid de one. Ed'icated folks calls dat raising de note. I is ig'nant and I calls dat robbery. And dat's like you and me. We is naughts and Christ is de One, and we ain't nothing till we carries de Spirit of de Lawd along wid us.
"On de pathway of life, may you allus keep Christ in front of you and you will never go wrong. De Lawd will den see fit to give you a soul dat will reach from His foot-stool here on earth to His dwelling place on high." He ended with a deep sob and good-bye.
Source: George Briggs (88), Union, S. C. RFD 2.
STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES
"Some white men called in question today about de reigning governor enduring time of de Civil War. I knowed dat, and 'cides dat, I knowed him well. It was Governor 'Bill' as us called him.
"What you want to git, is history about muster grounds. Yes, it was on Jones Ferry Road, jest south of Cross Keys whar dey had what dey allus called de muster field. Now, Jones Ferry Road leads across Enoree River into Laurens County. Enoree River is de thing dat devides Union County from Laurens County, dat it is.
"Well as I remember, Mr. Bill Ray was in de mustering of de 18th Regiment. Billy, Robert, Sara and Miss Nancy was Mr. Alex's chilluns. Understand me, don't think dat Bob and Sam was in de Regiment ... satisfied Billy was, kaise he used to pass our house on horse back, coming from de Laurens side where he lived.
"Sixteen-year-old boys come in de same time dat I did. Course I ain't told all dat I knows, kaise dat wouldn't be proper. All I tell you, I wants it to be recognized. De better it's done, de better it'll help you.
"I goes from home and stays five days or more, and don't nothing happen to a thing at my home. I does fer de sick and de Lawd blesses me. He looks atter my things while I am away. He soon shows his presence atter I gits dar. He calls fer me and I feeds Him.
"Once had 26 biles (boils). Dat make me consider my disobedience against de Lawd. Den I went to Him in prayer. He told me Satan done got ahead of Him. Dat show me dat I done forgot to be particular. I got mo' 'ticular and pray mo' often, and in six weeks my biles had done all gone.
"Dar is times when I gits lost fer not knowing. I can't keep up, kaise I cannot read. Man in Sunday school reads and I hears. He read de olden Testament; den he read de new Testament. Dat my schooling. I 'clar unto you, I got by all my life by praying and thinking. I sho does think a lot. ('Uncle' George's facial and scalp muscles work so when he thinks, that his straw hat moves up and down.)
"When good man prays fer bad man, de Holy Ghost works on bad man's consciousness, and afo' he knows it, he's a-saying 'Lawd have Mercy' 'stead of 'G'dam', like all wicked folks says every day. He—dat de Holy Ghost dat I still is speaking of—jest penetrates de wicked man's consciousness widout him a-knowing it. Dat penetrating make de bad man say, 'Lawd have Mercy.' I hoes and I cuts sprouts, and den I plows. When you plows, mules is allus so aggravating dat dey gits you all ruffled up. Dat de devil a-working at you. Dat's all old mules is anyhow. I does not cuss, nohow, kaise it sho am wicked and I is had de Holy Spirit in my soul, now gone sixty-five years, since I jined Padgett Creek Church. When my old mule gits to de row's end, and he act mulish—kaise dat's in him and he don't know nothing else to do—I means to say either 'ha' or 'gee', and often since I jined Padgett Creek Church I finds myself saying 'Lawd have Mercy' 'stead of 'gee' or 'ha'. So you see dat de Lawd has command, whar-so-ever if I was wicked, Satan would.
"A child fo God allus will agree wid de Word of God. We mens dat claim to be leaders in de Kingdom, got to step up and sho folks what dey must do. Man learns right smart from Exodus 'bout how to lead. A male child was born to rule de world. Moses still de strongest impression dat we has as rulers. God gits Hisself into de heads of men dat he wants to rule and He don't tell nobody else nothing 'bout it neither.
"Mr. Roosevelt de president and he sho looks atter de po' folks. He ain't no ig'nant man neither, kaise he got de light. Folks ain't a-gwine to drown him out neither wid dere wicked words 'gainst him, kaise he strive in de Lawd's name to do His will. Mr. Roosevelt got learning like I is from de throne of God. He may have education also, but if he is, he sho knows how to keep dem both jined together. Folks reads to me how he got crippled and how he washed in dem springs in Georgia, and dat keep him a-gwine right on anyhow. It ain't dem springs by deself, but it's God a dipping his hand down dar fer de President to git well. Oh yes, suh, I knows dat he twan't de president when he was a-washing, but dem de plans dat de Lawd had done already planned and you and me never know'd nothing 'bout all dat. You and me does not know what is planned up in sto' fer us in de future neither.
"I is a Baptist, and at Padgett's Creek we does not believe in no
back-sliding. 'Once in de Spirit, allus in de Spirit'. A child of your'n
is allus a child of your'n. Dat de way de Baptist teach—once a child of
God, allus God's child. T'ain't no sech thing as drapping back. If you
draps back, you ain't never been no child of de Lawd, and
"God gits in de heads of men to help de aged and de po' also. I never axes fer nothing, but when I sets around de courthouse and informs men as I been doing dis evening, de Lawd has dem to drap a nickle or a dime or a quarter in my hand but He never gits dem to a half of a dollar."
Source: George Briggs, (88) Rt. 2, Union, S. C.
STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES
"What-so-ever I can find! I traveling dat way over 73 years. If he ax de Lawd and have faith, he ken do; and iffen he don't have no faith, by den he can't. When a man comes along dat wants his own way, and he won't pay no attention to de Lawd, by den de Lawd don't pay him no mind; and so dat man jest keeps a-gwine on wid his way and he don't never reach de Cross. Jesus say, 'deny yourself, pick up de Cross and follow Me.'
"I see a man in de courthouse dis morning, and he was like Nicodemus. Why dat man want to be resto'd back like he was when he was jest 21 years old. I seed him setting down dar in Mr. Perrin's office, and I knowed his troubles when he 'low dat he done been to every doctor in town. De trouble was, he never had no faith in de doctors and nobody else. How could he have faith in Jesus when he never had none in nothing else? Brother, you has to have faith in your fellowman befo' you has faith in de Lawd. I don't know how come, but dat's de way it is. My plan is working by faith. Jesus say, 'Work widout faith ain't nothing; but work wid faith'll move mountains'.
"Dat man told me he gwine give me a hundred dollars if I rid him of misery. Dat show he never know nothing 'bout faith.
"If Mr. Emslie Nicholson ax me to rid him of a misery, I couldn't take no money from him, and he de richest man in all Union County. Mr. Nicholson would know better dan to offer me money, kaise he has faith. You know he's a good 'Presmuterian' (Presbyterian).
"Dey looks at de back of my head, and de hair on it ain't rubbed against no college and fer dat reason dese young negroes don't want me to preach. Dey wants to hear dat man preach dat can read. Man dat can read can't understand less'n some divine man guide him. I speak as my Teacher gives it to me, dat's de Lawd. In so doing, I testify de word dat no man can condemn. Dat is my plan of Salvation: to work by faith widout price or purse, as de Lawd, my Teacher has taught me.
"Dar was no church on our plantation when I was a boy. All de Baptists went to Padgett's Creek, and all de Methodist went to Quaker Church and Belmont. Padgett's Creek had a section in de back of de church fer de slaves to sit. Quaker Church and Belmont both had slaves' galleries. Dar is a big book at Padgetts wid three pages of slaves' names that was members. Mr. Claude Sparks read it to me last year. All de darky members dead, but one, dat's me.
"Nobody never read de Bible to me when I was little. It jest a gift of God dat teached to me through de Holy Ghost. It's de Spirit of de One in Three dat gits into you, and dat's de Holy Ghost or de Holy Spirit dat gives me my enlightment.
"If I can git to de do' of Padgett's Creek Church, I can jest feel de Power of God. ('Uncle' George pats his foot and softly cries at this point, and his face takes on a calm and peaceful expression.)
"If you eats befo' you gits hongry, you never will feast on dead air. I makes it a practice to feed my soul and body befo' dey gits hongry. Even I does eat by myself, dis old man take off his hat and ax de Lawd to bless his soul and body in nourishment fer de future.
"I ain't never seed Mr. Lincoln, but from what I learn't dey said dat God had placed in him de revelation to give de plan dat he had fer every man. Dat plan fer every man to worship under his own vine and fig tree. From dat, we should of liked Mr. Lincoln.
"Dis here 'Dick Look-Up'. No sir, I don't know him, kaise I caught his name since I come on dis side of de river. Mr. Perrin knows him, and I heard him say dat every time anybody ax him how old he is, he add on ten years. Dat's how come dey got in de paper he a hundred and twenty-five years old. Now me and Mr. Perrin doesn't speak unless we is obleeged to know dat what we is gwine to say is de truth. Us is careful, kaise us knows dat de Lawd am looking down from his throne, and dat He is checking every word dat we says. Some folks does not recall dat fact when dey speaks, or dey would be careful.
"I'll say it slow so dat you can catch it; I start in time of de Confederate War. Wid dirt dug up out of de smokehouse, water was run through it so us could get salt fer bread. Hickory wood ashes was used fer soda. If we didn't have no hickory wood, we burnt red corn cobs; and de ashes from dem was used fer cooking soda.
"Molasses was made from watermelons in time of de war. Dey was also made from May-apples or may-pops as some call dem, and sometimes dey was made from persimmons and from wheat brand. In Confederate days, Irish potato tops was cooked fer vegetables. Blackberry leaves was ocassionally used fer greens or fer seasoning lambs quarters.
"Dis way watermelon was done: Soak watermelon twenty and four hours to de'self; strain off all juice and put on fire to bile. When dey thickens dey bees good. Yes sir, good, good.
"Wid may-pops: peel de outside green off, den bust 'em open and mash up together; strain juice off and cook thick.
"'Simmons and wheat bran are mashed up together and baked in water. Let set twenty and four hours and cook down to molasses. Dat winds up dat part of it.
"Git plums and blackberries and de like of dat and make up in Jelly, or can fer scarce times, dat's de way we done den and folks does dat yet. Dese is some of de particularest things of de Confederate times dat I come back from Sedalia to give you, dat's right. (This old negro, who had already been interviewed by the writer, came a long way and looked-up the author to tell him some incidents which he had forgotten to tell in the first interview.) Some customs is done went by now, but dey was practiced in Sedalia, and as to whar dem was done fer off as Spartanburg, I cannot say.
"In Confederate time, all wimmens stayed close home and carded and spun all de day long. Dey wove all dere own clothes. Men at home, old men, made leather shoes and shoe strings and belts and galloses.
"Our darkies tried hard to be obedient to our master so dat we might obtain (keep) our pleasant home. Obedience makes it better dan sacrifice. I restes my mind dar."
Source: George Briggs (88), Rt. 2, Union, S. C.
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