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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Visiting great-grandmother in Stagville

de-Heer describes her childhood experiences in Stagville, North Carolina. In particular, she focuses on her memories of her great-grandmother, whom she often spent time with. In describing her great-grandmother's home and some of her possessions, her comments reveal living conditions and material culture during those years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What do you know about your great grandmother, Julia
Oh, the one that I'm named after? I knew that I loved her. I used to go, she worked at the big house. We called it the big house, which is a historical site now. She lived in a little cabin across the wall. It was a wall like and across the wall was a little cabin that she lived. I would go out there and stay with her during the summer. My mother said that we lived out there for a while. But I remember going every summer. I loved it out there because it was a pond in the back. But my great grandmother worked up in the big house and I used to go up, a huge kitchen. It was so large to me then because I was little. I said, "Oh, this is a big place." That was the largest place I ever saw. She used to give me little cookies or something that she had baked. And I played with Elizabeth and Johnny, the family members that were there. I guest they were great grands, or grands or something at that time also. And we would leave and come back across the wall to our little bitty place. But she had one bedroom. Well, there was two bedrooms. The way she had it up, it was two bedrooms. She had two beds on this side and a little hallway, a little walkway. And what I loved, was those little, what do you call it? The churn? Not the churn, the piston that you pour the water in, the little wash—she had a beautiful, beautiful one she sat there. And it had the pitcher to it and the little round wash basin. You would pour water in it and wash your face and stuff. It was so beautiful. I remember that. That was in the little hallway right there in the other bedroom. And when you go out the other one, is a little walkway and then you enter the kitchen. And she had this great old big wood stove. That was a big kitchen, too. And a pantry and all that. And every summer I used to go out there. And out back we had the pond. I hated getting my feet in the water, though at that time because I was afraid of snakes. And my brother and Johnny and Eddie—little Eddie from the big house, they used to just jump in that water, and it was ugh—and I would see snakes running around. And I said, "No." Yes, she worked there until she passed. She was a hundred.
A hundred?
She was a hundred and, I believe she was a hundred and two when she passed. My ancestors, the oldest one was, I believe he was a hundred and twelve when he died. But they usually go up to the hundreds or the nineties, or something. They live a long time. And what is so amazing about it, and I believe that today, is because they worked. You know, when they came out with retirement, when they couldn't move, or couldn't work or wasn't busy, they just drifted away. But then they just worked and was used to working. She worked, and worked and worked. Until she just got, one day she was tired. She used to laugh and play with me. And I loved her. I loved her. We used to sit on the front porch. She had this great old big tree in her front yard. We used to sit out. She had a little rocking chair and they had a swing that they had made, my uncle had made, this wooden swing and the rocking chair. She used to sit in the rocker and I was on the swing. And she would just tell me stories about her brother and her father. And that was a good time in life. That was really a good time for me because I love the country, the outside. I loved it. And that's my desire to get back, take these boys back to the country. It seemed as though things—when we moved to the city, things began to change for me. The fast everything. You know, it changed. But when we first moved, the family knit. Everybody on the street was close. They looked out for each other's children and it was a unity there. You could just go downtown. You could just go anywhere. You could leave your door open. And it was really, really nice, like in peaceful and quiet.