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First edition, 2000
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
(title page) Before the War, and After the Union; An Autobiography
(cover) Before the War, and After the Union
Sam Aleckson (Samuel Williams)
171 p., ill.
Gold Mind Publishing Company
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
"I will a plain unvarnished tale deliver."
Kindness and Affection
Serve in Great Measure
to Make My Declining Years
Peaceful and Contented.
"When I began this unpretentious narrative, I was almost sightless. I had just recovered from a severe attack of illness, during which for a time I became totally blind, and after I was better my eyes seemed hopelessly affected. This I endeavored to conceal as I had to earn my bread, but so frequently did I pass my most intimate friends on the street without the slightest show of recognition that I was forced to admit I was almost blind. I was then urged to consult an eminent physician of the town who gave special attention to ailments of the eye, and after a complete examination, he informed me that my eyes were in such condition that glasses would do me no good, and with a show of sincere sympathy said, "I am sorry for you, but within six months you will be totally blind."
"Approaching blindness is always appalling, especially to one who is dependent on his labor for a living. 'What shall I do when my sight is gone?' This question forced itself upon me night and day. I was then past middle life, and the prospects of a blind and helpless old age stood out before me. My life had not been wholly uneventful; I had been of
an observant turn of mind from my youth. What if I could set down the events that had come under my observation in some connected form? Might I not thereby be able to earn something toward my support when I could no longer see!
"I was compelled to give up some of my work on account of failing sight, but I was still employed by day. I began to write at night often tinder poor light, being scarcely able to see the words as I traced them. Thus my MS. was finished. Untoward conditions prevented publication and it has lain hidden away all these years. The motive that first prompted me to undertake the task no longer exists, my sight has been providentially restored, and at the age of seventy-two I find myself in good health and able to earn my living. There are other considerations, however, which actuate me, even at this late day, to present to the reader this crude story.
"It is a remarkable fact that very many of the immediate descendants of those who passed through the trying ordeal of American slavery know nothing of the hardships through which their fathers came. Some reason for this may be found in the fact that
those fathers hated to harrow the minds of their children by the recital of their cruel experiences of those dark days. There is, however, a deeper reason. It is found in the religious nature of the Negro and the readiness with which he fell under the influence of Christianity, and the zeal with which he strove to follow the teaching and example of the lowly Nazarene.
"If the Negro had emerged from slavery in a sullen and vindictive frame of mind, he would unquestionably have shared the fate of the American Indian, and we would not now be witnessing the marvelous progress he is making, nor his surprising increase in numbers.
"While it is sweet to forgive and forget, there are somethings that should never be forgotten. If this humble narrative will serve to cause the youth of my people to take a glance backward, the object of the writer will have been attained. As Frederick Douglass has said, "How can we tell the distance we have come except we note the point from which we started?"
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead"
I WAS born in Charleston, South Carolina in the year, 1852. The place of my birth and the conditions under which I was born are matters over which, of course, I had no control. If I had, I should have altered the conditions, but I should not have changed the place; for it is a grand old city, and I have always felt proud of my citizenship. My father and my grandfather were born there, and there they died--my grandfather at the age of seventy-two, my father at seventy-six. My great grandfather came, or rather was brought, from Africa. It is said he bore the distinguishing marks of royalty on his person and was a fine looking man--fine looking for a Negro I believe is the
usual qualification--at least that is what an old lady once told my own father who had inherited the good looks of his grandsire.
I do not know the name my great grandfather bore in Africa, but when he arrived in this country he was given the name, Clement, and when he found he needed a surname-- something he was not accustomed to in his native land--he borrowed that of the man who bought him. It is a very good name, and as we have held the same for more than a hundred and fifty years, without change or alteration, I think, therefore, we are legally entitled to it. His descendants up to the close of the Civil War, seemed with rare good fortune under the Providence of God, to have escaped many of the more cruel hardships incident to American slavery.
I may be permitted to add that on the arrival of my progenitor in this country he was not allowed to enter into negotiation with the Indians, and thereby acquire a large tract of land. Instead, an axe was placed in his hands and he therefore became in some sort, a pioneer of American civilization.
My father and my mother were both under the "yoke", but were held by different families. They made their home with my father's people who were, of all slave holders, the very best; and it was here that I spent the first years of my life.
My mother went to her work early each morning, and came home after the day's work was done. My brother, older than I, accompanied her, but I being too young to be of practical service, was left to the care of my grandmother--and what a dear old christian she was! At this time her advanced age and past faithful service, rendered her required duties light, so that she had ample time to care for me. Her patient endeavor to impress upon my youthful mind the simple principles of a christian life shall never be forgotten, and I trust her efforts have not been altogether in vain. She was born in the hands of the family where she passed her entire life; and it would be a revelation to many of the present day to know to what extent her counsel and advice was sought and heeded by the household--white and black.
Our household was large; beside the owners, three
maiden ladies (sisters) there were a dozen servants, some like my father, worked out and paid wages, but all:
"Claimed kindred here
And had their claims allowed."
for, there never was a better ordered establishment, nor were there ever better examples of christian womanhood than that of the three ladies who presided over it; and it is especially worthy of note that all the servants who were old enough, could read, and some of them had mastered the three "R's", having been taught by these ladies or their predecessors. Before the beginning of the Civil War these kind ladies liberated all their slaves, and it is no reflection on the Negro that many of the liberated ones refused to leave them. There were many considerations that prompted them to decline their proffered freedom; in some cases husband and wife were not fellow-servants, and one was unwilling to leave the other. All those who accepted their liberty were sent to Liberia. I know of one who returned after the, war to visit relatives and friends. He had been
quite successful in his new home, and he gave good account of those who had left Charleston with him. Some had died, others were doing well. He found one of the good ladies still living and had the great pleasure of relating his story to her. When, after a brief stay in the city, he took his departure, he carried with him many tokens of remembrance from their kind benefactress for himself and those at home.
"How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
When fond recollections present them to view."
Though fifty years of time and more than a thousand miles of space separate me from the home of my birth and early childhood, the old home seems more plain before me now than places I visited but yesterday. It was a grand old house, built of grey brick. There were three spacious piazzas running along the west and south sides of the house. The wide yard was paved with brick. To the west of the paved yard was a large garden in which rarest flowers bloomed; but dearer than all to our youthful hearts were the "Four-o'clocks", that grew there in great profusion and various colors. We made festoons of them, hung them over our heads while we
"played house" and made mud pies beneath. We wove garlands and twined them about the neck of dear old "Watch." He was our great Newfoundland. Was there ever such a faithful dog as he? Noble animal, rough and tumble with the boys, gentle with the girls, but kind to all. The bulldog and the pug have taken his place now, but surely there never was a safer or kinder friend to children than he. Our "Watch" had never read "The Rights of the Child," but he put his foot, or rather his paw (no small one), down on any of us being punished in his presence. Whenever our parents deemed it encumbent on them to give forcible and painful evidence that they were not amendable to the charge of "sparing the rod and spoiling the child," it was necessary to lock Watch up in the woodshed, and if in their haste this precaution was neglected he would rush in, seize the slipper or strap (they used both in those days), between his teeth and hang on like grim death. After we had escaped to the yard he would run out, lick our faces and seem to say, "I told you I would not allow it. Come, let us have a romp."
There were fruit trees in our garden; peaches,
apricots, pomegranate and figs. We loved the figs most, of which there were several varieties. Our especial pride was the large black fig tree. There were six of us, three girls and three boys. Four of us were white and two were Negroes. Did we quarrel and fight? No indeed! Our little misunderstandings were settled long before we came to blows. There was more of the spirit as well as the letter of the little lines:
"Let dogs delight
To bark and bite,"
than seems generally the case now. Would there was more of that spirit abroad in the land today then would we hear less of Negro problems, deportations, and the like.
Every morning in season would find us at our favorite fig tree. The, boys would climb into its branches while the girls stood below with extended aprons to catch the fruit as we dropped them. Some times there came a voice from above in complaining tones--"Now Jennie! I see you eating." "Oh," would be the reply, "That one was all mashed up." "All right, now don't eat till we come down."
Then when we descended we took large green fig-leaves, placed them in a basket, laid the most perfect fruit thereon, and one of us would run to the house with it. . . . "Don't eat till I come back." "We won't." . . . When the messenger returned we went to our favorite nook in the garden and after dispatching about a dozen figs apiece we rushed to our breakfast with appetites as unappeased as if we had fasted for a week--And then to school, "But not the Negroes" you say? Yes indeed! The Negroes too.
The four white children that formed a part of this little band did not live at our house. They were niece and nephew of our good ladies and lived a short distance from us. They came regularly every morning and afternoon, except Sunday, to "play in our yard." They attended a private school, while Jennie and myself, the two Negroes, were taught at home by their aunts for two or three hours each day. One of these kind ladies, usually Miss S----, strove with our obtuseness. We had only one book each, but it was a great book. I thought so then and I think so now. From it, like all great men, we first
learned our A B C's, then came A-b-âb B-a, ba and so on to such hard words as ac-com-mo-da-tion, com-pen-sa-tion and the like. From this wonderful book we learned to read, write, and cipher, too. We also got an idea of grammar, of weights and measures, etc. We had slates, for those useful articles had not yet gone out of fashion.
There were pictures in our book illustrating fables that taught good moral lessons, such as that of the man who prayed to Hercules to take his wagon out of the mire; of the two men who stole a piece of meat; of the lazy maids and of the kindhearted man who took a half frozen serpent into his house. This book was called, "Thomas Dilworth's," and many a slave was severely punished for being found with a copy of it in his hands. When one had succeeded in mastering the contents of this book (which they frequently did), he was considered a prodigy of learning by his fellows. I do not know whether Mr. Dilworth has ever had a monument erected to his memory, but if ever a man deserved one it is he.
This was a Christian household. The Sabbath
was strictly observed. Duties were reduced to the barest necessities, and all attended church. There was no cooking. Cold meats, tea and bread served to satisfy our hunger on the Lord's Day. The ladies were Congregationalists and attended the "Circular Church." The servants were left to their own choice in religious matters and were divided in their religious opinions. My grandmother was a Methodist and attended "Old Cumberland." It required something very serious to prevent the dear old lady going to prayer meeting on Sunday mornings. These meetings were held at an early hour, but I always went with her. Each one entered the sacred place in solemn silence. When the moment arrived some leader would raise one of those grand old hymns such as--
"Early my God without delay
I haste to seek thy face."
for, they sorely felt the need of Him who
"Tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb!" Then at the close they sang--
"My friends I bid you all farewell
I leave you in God's care
And if I never more see you,
Go on, I'll meet you there."
It not only had reference to the final dissolution, but also to the uncertain temporal condition under which they lived, for, in many instances before the next prayer meeting they were sold, to serve new masters in distant parts. Often without having time to say good-bye to relatives or friends.
When meeting was over they filed out quietly. No buzz of voices was heard until they reached the sidewalk. Then, after a hearty handshake and a word of cheer and hope, they hastened to their duties; many to serve hard and impatient masters. 'Twere well for these that they had been fortified by those few moments of prayer and meditation.
The people showed commendable zeal in attending these meetings. In those early Sunday mornings men and women might have been seen standing within their gates. They appeared to be listening
intently, as if to catch some sound (for they must not be found on the streets after "drum beat" at night or before that hour in the morning). At the first tap they hastened out to their respective places of worship, there to lift up their hearts and voices in prayer and supplication to God.
My mother's people too, were of the "St. Clair" type. On Sundays after Sabbath School I was permitted to visit my mother at their home. They were Mrs. Dane, a widow, and three grown children--a daughter and two sons. The daughter was married. The sons, Thomas and Edward were unmarried. I always looked forward to these visits with pleasure as I was sure to be regaled with lumps of sugar and pieces of money, by the old lady and the other members of the family. Besides, Mr. Edward (who was a lover of fine horses, and of whom I shall have something more to say later), would treat me to a horseback ride around the large lot.
There is nothing good to be said of American slavery. I know it is sometimes customary to speak of its bright and its dark sides. I am not prepared to admit that it had any bright sides, unless it was
the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln . . . There was often a strong manifestation of sympathy, however. A sad incident which occurred in the Dane family when I was about eight years old may serve to illustrate this:--It was usual in those days for each member of a family to have his or her own personal attendant. Mr. Thomas Dane, a kind-hearted gentleman of studious habits and quiet demeanor, had as his servant, a woman called Beck. He did not take breakfast with the family. It was his custom to take his morning meal in his own apartment being waited on by her. Like all the good slaveholders the Danes did not ruthlessly sell their slaves. I do not know how it came about that two of Aunt Beck's children had been sold. She had one remaining child at this time. He was a bright fellow of about sixteen years of age. He was well-liked by all on account of his cheerful disposition. I cannot tell the cause of it, but the boy George was sold away from his mother as had been his brother and sister. This was a heavy blow to her. One morning, shortly after the sale of George, Mr. Dane came down to
breakfast. Noticing the dejected appearance of his servant, and no doubt, discerning the cause he ventured some pleasant remark, but Aunt Beck's heart was heavy. At last, no longer able to suppress her great grief she began to weep. "My last chile gone now, Mas' Thomas," she said.
"I know it Beck," he answered, placing his hand to his head, "But, my God! I could not help it."
He rose from the table and paced the floor. The woman became alarmed at the agitation of her master, and forgetting her sorrow for the moment, said, "I know you couldn't help it Mas' Thomas. Sit down and eat your breakfast."
But, no breakfast for him that morning. Presently he went up to his room. Soon he returned having arranged his toilet with more than usual care. He stepped out into the yard, entered an outer building--in a moment a pistol shot was heard! They rushed to the step, but his life blood was ebbing away. He never spoke again. The grief of the woman was more than he could stand.
I visited the place a few years ago. There were different people there. They knew naught of that
sad tragedy, nor did they know that Petigrue, Rutledge, Horry, Pringle and Lowndes were once regular visitors here. The old house and its surroundings are very much as they were fifty years ago. The chimes of St. Michael can still be distinctly heard and the hands on the dial may still be seen from the house.
It is quite different at the place where I was born. There is not a vestige of the old house to be seen, for a great fire since that time, swept over this district and destroyed it and nearly every nearby dwelling house. In my childhood we had as near neighbors Pinckney, Legare, and Prescott. There is nothing about the locality now to show that here was once the abode of aristocracy and wealth, for, in no instance have the old families rebuilt their homes here. Very near our house stood a large and quaint old dwelling built before the Revolution. The front door was reached by high flights of steps. I always stood in awe of that house; partly because of the high wall that surrounded it, and partly because once a member of the tribe of "Weary Willies," chanced to pass that way, He sat down on those
steps to eat a loaf of bread that had been given him. Whether from hunger or from some other cause, (I never knew), he died there with the bread in his hand. As a result, "Go die on Blank's steps" became a phrase of the day. The wall that surrounded that old place was high--higher than any wall appears to me now. It was ornamented on top with glass bottles--broken bottles. The man who broke them seemed to have had murder in his heart. He did not follow any particular line in breaking them, nor did he seem to strive at color effect. There were white, black and brown bottles all broken in a way that was calculated to inflict mortal injury on any who attempted to climb into the inclosure.
But the old house and its high wall too have disappeared. Cotton yards and ware-houses now occupy the site of many an old mansion. Houses have been built on some of the lots, but they are far less pretentious than their predecessors, and are occupied by different people. For--
"Other men our fields will till
And other men our places fill
A hundred years to come."
There were many walls like the one I alluded to in the quaint old city, but they have nearly all disappeared. All the midnight prowler has to do now is to step lightly over artistically trimmed hedges and meander through beautifully laid out walks to the rear of the premises to where the feathery tribe reposes in ornamental structures. But if the glass bottles and high walls are no more, the dim flickering street-lamps' have also been replaced by the brilliant electric light, thus enabling the watchful owner to place his "Mustard seed" the more accurately where they would do the most good. Therefore, . . . The "Knight of the feather" may well sigh for the good old "lamp oil" times.
"We will ring the chorus
From Atlanta to the sea."
MY mother and her children fell to the lot of Edward Dane, brother of Thomas. This young gentleman was of a gay disposition; fond of horses and the sports of the day. Like his brother he was kind and generous. He taught me to ride, and when I could sit my horse well "bare-back" he had a saddle made for me at the then famous "McKinzie's" saddlery, sign of the "White Horse at the corner of Church and Chalmers street. (Gentlemen had their saddles made to order in those days). I would often accompany him "up the road" on horseback to the Clubhouse, there to exhibit my youthful feats of horsemanship, for the divertissement of Mr. Dane and his friends. My horse, Agile and myself were the best of friends. He never hesitated at a hurdle
and we never had a mishap. Possibly Mr. Dane had "views", concerning me for he owned several fast horses, but before I was old enough to be of practical service, "Sherman came marching through Georgia."
Here I shall have to admit that I was a "Sherman Cutloose" (this was a term applied in derision by Some of the Negroes who were free before the war,-- To those who were freed by the war). I am Persuaded however that all the Negroes in the slave belt, And some of the white men too, were "Cutloose" by General Sherman. But let bygones be bygones. "We are brothers all, at least we would be if it were not for the demagogues and the Apostles of hate.
Mr. Edward Dane was an ardent supporter of the "Code." He was an authority on such matters and could arrange a meeting with all the nice attention to details that characterized gentlemen of the "Old School" in South Carolina. His deliberation in such Matters would have been a keen disappointment to "Mr. Winkle" as there was never was any danger of the police or anyone else interfering when he had matters in hand. The police, however, never interfered
with gentlemen of the "old school" in the "Palmetto" state. The following story is told of a well-known gentleman of a past generation:--He was a man of splendid physique and dignified carriage. One morning he entered the Old Charleston Market with a lit cigar between his lips. Soon he was accosted by a policeman, a new recruit from the Emerald Isle. "It be aginst the law to be afther schmokin in the Market, Sor," he said. "The law," said Mr.----. "I am the law. When you see me you see the law. The law was made for poor white men and Negroes." And he strode on leaving that son of Erin a wiser, if not a better man.
The Danes were society people. In their well-appointed home they kept many servants, Mrs. Dane and her daughter Mrs. Turner were both kind ladies. The old lady had a way of personally looking into matters about the establishment that secured for her a pet name from the servants. Whenever she started on her tour of inspection word would be passed along, "de old Jay comin'. This would send every one to their post of duty. Of course the servants were ignorant of the fact that
Mrs. Dane knew anything about the re-christening she had secured at their hands. Judge of their surprise therefore, then that lady presented herself before them and announced, "Yes, here comes the 'Old Jay!'"
They were all assembled in the kitchen for a little chat, and their attitudes and the expressions of bewilderment on their faces would have delighted the heart of an artist. The cook was just about to emphasize a remark he had made by bringing a large spoon which he held above his head down on the dresser, when the sudden appearance of the lady and her words, seemed to arrest the descent. There he stood in open-mouthed amazement. Mrs. Dane surveyed the scene for a moment, then quietly withdrew, a smile of amusement on her face. This incident was long remembered by those present, but any reference to it in his presence was promptly frowned down by the Cook, who felt keenly the ludicrousness of the figure he cut with the uplifted spoon. It was a much as their dinner was worth for any one of them even to raise a spoon above their heads.
Uncle Renty, the cook, particularly disliked these periodical intrusions in his domain. The altogether unnecessary clatter and clashing of pans and kettles whenever the lady made her appearance was only his method of expressing his resentment. This, Mrs. Dane well understood, and never prolonged her stay in the kitchen, for the old man's ability as an artist in his profession was recognized and appreciated. It was said that when the elder Mr. Dane was alive, he frequently began and ended his dinner with one of Uncle Renty's soups. They were simply marvelous, especially his turtle, calf's head and okra soups. How he made them no one knew, nor would they have been any wiser if he had been questioned on the subject. He had several dishes of his own invention to which he had given original names. The other servants had great respect for him; the old, because of his skill, and the young, because of his readiness with the rolling pin. He had obtained the name of "Old Scarlet" from his follow-servants. But those who ventured to call him so always took pains to get out of reach. This is how he got the name:--
In those days personal application for work were frequently made from door to door by the "newly arrived." One day an Irish woman applied to Mrs. Dane. She did not need her particularly, but thought she might give the woman work for a day or two as assistant to Uncle Renty, for they were to have a large dinner party:--"Wait a moment," she said. The lady knew the old man well enough to know that diplomacy was required. Going to the kitchen she complimented him on the neat appearance of things. "You are all in readiness for the dinner I see."
"Yes ma'am." (Now the old man had already been apprised of the purport of her visit. He was fully prepared. He was by no means color blind, but was not well posted in the nomenclature of colors.)
"And do you know daddy Renty," continued Mrs. Dane, "I have thought that you might need some additional help in the kitchen for a day or so."
"Everything was all right las time, ain't ee ma'am?"
"Oh yes, certainly. Everything was just splendid," she replied, "But a white woman has applied to me for work and I thought--."
"Mis Charlotte," interrupted Renty, "I don't car if she white as scarlet, ma'am, I doan want um in my kitchen." Argument was useless and so a job had to be found for Bridget in the laundry.
But all of this was before the untimely death of Mr. Thomas Dane, to which I referred in the preceding chapter. That sad event seemed to have been the beginning of trouble for the Dane family. Indeed things were becoming serious for all. The probability of war between the states was manifested more and more daily. There was a growing feeling of unrest everywhere, and it was soon known that this calamity would not be averted.
The very commencement of the war seemed to have brought disaster to the financial prosperity of many, and the Danes were among the earliest to feel its effects. Some of the servants were sent out to work and so it happened that my mother went as cook for a wealthy family in the city. They were very kind people. Mrs. Bale was a widow with two
children. They were both married. Mrs. Ward, the daughter, and her husband lived with her mother. The son, Tom Bale had establishments of his own.
It was hard for me to leave our dear old home at the Misses Jayne's, my father's people, for there was my good old grandmother, the kind ladies, my playmates and faithful old Watch. But the distance was too far for my mother to walk back and forth, (there were no street cars in those days), so we had to make our home at Mrs. Bale's house. I found some consolation however, in our new home. Mrs. Ward had two boys, and they and I soon became good friends. Besides, there were horses there, and Uncle Ben, the coachman allowed me to Ride them to water. There were children living next door too, with whom I became acquainted, and this led to a romantic incident in my life years afterward. When "the Union had come in," I married one of the little girls who lived next door, although I had to go all the way to New York to find her.
Our stay at Mrs. Bale's was very pleasant, circumstances being considered. It was here, however
that I witnessed the first instance of cruelty or harshness of an owner to his slave that ever came under my personal observation. Of this I shall have more to say. I missed my weekly visits to the Danes too, for besides the pennies, lumps of sugar and horseback rides, I had many friends there also. Then there was Cora, the daughter of one of the servants, I am still inclined to believe that she was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She was endowed with an olive complexion, large black dreamy eyes, raven hair, pearly white teeth and a bewitching smile. Her voice was one of the most unusual voices I have ever heard. Cora used to kiss me and call me her little sweetheart, (for though you would not believe it now, then I was a bright-looking little two-headed chap, and got many a kiss from the "big girls" in the neighborhood, because they said I was so cute.) But that was years and years ago. Cora promised to "Wait for me." Of course I believed her. She was eighteen and I was about nine years old, yet I thought that somewhere in the race of life I would overtake her and she would be mine. It never occurred to me that when I had
reached eighteen she would be twenty-seven, and the disparity in our ages would be the same. Years afterward I met her. She was married and had several children, while I was just entering into young manhood. How fickle some girls are, eh?
There was a large garden with fig trees and flowers in it at Mrs. Bale's house, but the figs were not as sweet nor were the flowers half as beautiful as those at my old home. There were two dogs not near so clever as our Watch, and the children--well, they had never lived at a home like our old place on Guignard Street. In fact, there never was another home like that, but "Grief sits light on youthful hearts." All my regrets were greatly modified by the prospects of a visit to the country. Such a trip always seems alluring to a city boy. Indeed the country seems to hold out allurements to everyone except those who live there. Mr. Ward owned a plantation to which the family went every winter, and when it became known to me that we were soon to go there, I was all impatience. I plied Uncle Ben with a thousand questions as to how far away it was, what kind of a place, what was to be seen,
were there any snakes, did they bite, was there any wild horse running about in the woods, did he think I might catch one? Etc., etc. Now Uncle Ben was a philosopher. He was not given over much to talking. No one but myself would have dared to ask him so many questions. He had taken a fancy to me. Everyone said it was a wonder. He had no children of his own, besides he was inclined to be somewhat of a misanthropist. I would sometime have to wait indefinitely for an answer to a very simple question. However, by the exercise of patience and discretion I finally got all the information I desired, or thought I did, which amounted to the same thing.
Uncle Ben was epigrammatic as well as philosophical. one night after a very trying day he went to prayer meeting. He was feeling rather blue, and did not intend to take an active part in the exercises. Of course the conductor of the meeting knew nothing of the old man's frame of mind. "Will brudder Ben jine us in prayer?" he asked, but there was no response. "I mean brudder Ben Bale," he said, fearing there might be some misunderstanding. Being thus importuned the old man knelt down and delivered himself as follows:-- "A ha'd bone to caw. A
bitter pill to swoller." Bress de Lawd. Amen.
But Christmas was approaching, and Santa Claus was gleefully expected for the good old man was a real personage in those days--not a myth. Oh, but you say it was wrong to deceive the children, as it had a bad effect on them? I don't know, but it seems to me that the children who believed in Santa Claus in those days would at least compare favorably in their love of truth with those of the present day who know, "It is only father and mother." At all events the country was forgotten for a while. It was sometime after holidays that we left for the plantation. There was not a gayer boy than myself when we boarded the train. (This was in the year 1860).
When we arrived at the station there were three teams awaiting us; one for the family, one for the servants, and another for the baggage. Uncle Ben was there, having brought the horses up by road a few days before. I rode on the baggage wagon. As there were only the driver and myself on it I thought I could ply the former for information without being requested to "Hold my tongue," an operation
that I had always found difficult. My companion I found was I well grown boy whose name was Missouri. Why they gave him that name I do not know. Perhaps it was in honor of the "Missouri Compromise." He said his name was the same as that of a great country miles and miles away, that he was called "Zury" for short, that his principal work on the plantation was plowing, and that his mule, Jack, was the best plow animal on the place. He also informed me that there were a large number of children on the plantation whose work was to play, and to keep the rice birds out of the fields. I suppose he was thoroughly dry by the time we got To "Pine Top," but he was a good-natured follow. We became firm friends. I always rode his mule from the field to the barn. Zury is now living in Charleston, where he is a successful mechanic known as Mr. Ladson.
Anyone visiting the old time plantation must have been impressed by the boundless hospitality of the people. Everybody came to see us. They brought chickens, eggs, potatoes, pumpkins, plums and things numerous to mention. I soon
found many play fellows. My especial chums were Joe and Hector, sons of the plantation driver. The boys were somewhat older than myself. They were skilled in woodcraft, and taught me bow to make bird traps and soon had me out hunting. One morning early, we started out, taking their dog, Spot along. When we reached the woods the dog ran ahead briskly, barking as he went. Shortly he began to bark furiously. "Spot, tree," said Joe, and we hastened on. When we got to the dog he was standing by a tall stump, still barking. "Got er rabbit," said Hector.
"Where?" I inquired.
"En de holler," he replied, and thrusting his arm into it he drew out the poor trembling creature by his hind legs.
"Set him down!" I cried.
"Oh no," said he, "Ee might git 'way."
This was just what I wanted, for I pitied the little animal, but the boys were hunters. They were not going to risk losing their game, so they killed the frightened thing without further ceremony, and put him in their bag. We got three rabbits that morning. I did not enjoy the sport, nor did I partake of the rabbit stew they had for dinner.
I did enjoy the night hunts however, for coon and possum were our quarry. I went with some of the young men. While the harmless little rabbit will not even defend himself when attacked, the possum is shy and crafty and the coon will fight. One night the dogs tree'd a coon. Now the wily animal usually selects a tree from which he can reach another, but this coon did not have time to "pick and choose." There was no other tree within jumping distance, so he went out on a limb as far away from the body of the tree as possible. And there he sat. As it was a large tree, it was decided that instead of cutting it down, someone should go up and shake the game off of it. Sandy, one of the party, readily volunteered to do so. Reaching the limb on which the coon was "roosting," he went on it so as to give it a vigorous shaking. The limb broke and down came both man and coon. The coon was dispatched while some of the men went to the assistance of Sandy. We thought he was seriously injured. He was stunned for a moment, but as they raised him up he asked, "Did we git um, boys?" The fall of more than twenty feet was broken by the branches beneath him, and thus he soon was all right again.
These hunts were great, but they were nothing compared to the feasts that followed. These were
never held on the same night as the hunt, but on the one following. I never took kindly to either the coon or the possum. The former is usually too fat, and the habits of the other do not appeal to me. But the stories told at these feasts! They would make the fortune of a writer if he could reproduce them. They simply cannot be reproduced, that is all. To get the real, genuine, simon pure article one must be on the ground. And perhaps you think that you have heard good, sound, hearty unadulterated laughter. Well, may be.
You may disfranchise the Negro, you may oppress him, you may deport him, but unless you destroy the disposition to laugh in his nature you can do him no permanent injury. All unconscious to himself, perhaps. It is not solely the meaningless expression of "vacant mind," nor is it simply a ray--It is the beaming light of hope--of faith. God has blessed him thus. He sees light where others see only the blackness of night[.]
"The tide of true love never did run smooth."
PINE TOP, Mr. Ward's country seat, was a beautiful plantation about eighteen or twenty miles from Charleston. The house, an old colonial mansion, stood on elevated ground, well back from the main road, and commanded a fine view of the surrounding country. From the main road the house was reached through a wide avenue, lined on either side by giant live oaks, while immediately in front of the house was a large lawn circled by a wide driveway.
From the front door of the house the barns, stables, gin-house, corn mill and Negro quarters, presented the appearance of a thriving little village. The quarters were regularly laid out in streets, and the cabins were all whitewashed. I once read in a newspaper, a letter from a Northern
man who visited the South immediately after the war. He took a rather unfavorable view of the prospects of the Negro, for he said, "There was a lamentable absence of flowers about their cabins." I suppose this "Oscar Wilde" thought the conditions under which the people lived were well calculated to foster love of the beautiful. The poor fellow could not have visited Pine Top however, and many other places I could name, or he would have been delighted to see the well-kept little flower beds near many of the cabins. And no doubt, he would have said they were just "too, too" for words. He might even have been tempted to enter some of those cabins by their neat and tidy appearances which could be seen through the open doors.
Mr. Ward was what was called a "good master." His people were well-fed, well-housed and not over-worked. There were certain inflexible rules however, governing his plantation of which he allowed not the slightest infraction, for he had his place for the Negro. Of course the Negro could not stand erect in it, but, the Negro had no right to stand
erect. His place for the Negro was in subjection and servitude to the white man. That is, to Mr. Ward and his class, for while he maintained that the supremacy of all white men over the Negro was indisputable, and must be recognized, still there was a class of white men that he would have prevented from ever becoming slaveholders.
While I repudiate Mr. Ward's views I am bound to believe that there is something in blood. In those parts of the South where aristocratic influence is dominant, opposition to the advancement and progress of the Negro is less than where the contrary is true. Eliminating the Negro altogether, in some of the southern states the "bottom rail" has gotten on top with a vengeance, and where such is the case, it is very bad for the "enclosure."
One evening Mr. Ward sat in his library before a blazing wood fire. He was the picture of contentment; and why should he be otherwise? He had a beautiful wife, two fine boys, hundreds of acres of land and numerous slaves to work them. Furthermore, he had just dined on wild duck. Now I would not tax the credulity of the reader by an exact
statement as to how long those ducks had been allowed to hang up after being shot before they were considered "ripe," but, they had reached a stage that would hardly have been appreciated by a man of less "refined" taste than his, for Mr. Ward was a lover of "high game." The aroma that arose from those "birds" during their preparation for the table would not have tempted the appetite of an ordinary man, even if he were very hungry.
Mrs. Ward had joined her husband for a little chat when Jake, the waiting boy, entered.--(Jake was the assistant and understudy of Uncle Sempie, the veteran butler. Uncle Sempie always retired after dinner, leaving Jake to attend to the later wants of his master). "Mingo, fum Mr. Hudson place wan ter see yo, sah," he said.
"All right, let him in," said Mr. Ward.
Presently Jake returned ushering in a very young Negro who appeared to be laboring under some embarrassment. As he entered he said, "Ebenin sah, ebenin ma'am."
"Good evening," replied the lady and gentleman.
"Are you Mingo from Mr. Hudson?" asked Mr. Ward.
"How are your master and mistress?"
"Dey berry well, sah."
"Well, Mingo, what can I do for you?"
The young fellow hesitated as if be did not know exactly how to proceed. Both the lady and gentleman looked at him attentively. He was becomingly attired, had a pleasant face, and was evidently a favored servant. At last he mustered enough courage to say, "I come sah ter ax yo p'mission ter cum see Dolly. Dolly is the darter ob Uncle Josh and Ant Peggy, sah," he added.
Mr. and Mrs. Ward strove hard to suppress their mirth as they saw the poor fellow was about to collapse. "Oh," said the lady smiling, "So you would a-courting go, eh?"
"Yees, ma'am," recovering himself a little.
Mr. Ward cleared his throat. "Well Mingo," he asked, "Have you got your master's consent?"
"Oh yees sah."
"And you and Dolly understand each other?"
"Are Josh and Peggy willing to have you for a son-in-law?"
"Oh yees, sah, I don ax dem."
"I suppose you behave yourself. I am very particular concerning this matter."
"I know dat, sah. Mas Jeem kin tell yo bout me, sah."
"Well, I guess it is all right. Of course I shall inquire about you. Have you got your ticket?"
Here Mingo produced the desired article. Mr. Ward read it, his brows contracting a little. "This is all right," he said, returning the paper, "Except that it does not way where you are to go. Now I never allow anyone on my place with such a ticket. The next time you visit Dolly you must have a different "ticket." Ask your master to give you one stating plainly that you are to visit my plantation. Do you understand?"
"Well, Mingo, I wish you good luck!" said Mrs. Ward.
"Tankee ma'am, tankee sah," and he bowed himself off.
The "ticket" referred to was simply a permit showing that the slave had his or her master's consent to be absent from home. In some instances their destination was mentioned; in others it merely stated that "A-- has my permission to be absent on such a date, or between given dates." Mr. Ward never refused his people "leave of absence," but in every case their destination was clearly set forth. It would not be safe for them to be found "off the coast."
Now I would not insinuate that Mingo was a fickle lover. It is just possible that he wished to visit some of the other girls in the neighborhood simply for the purpose of convincing himself by actual comparison of the superior charms of his own Dolly. His was a monthly "ticket," and under these circumstances we must excuse him for not wishing to have it changed. In fact he determined not to do so. He did not even acquaint Dolly with Mr. Ward's instruction. Possibly he feared that she might have
agreed with that gentlemen--from different motives of course.
It was the custom of the owner of "Pine Top" during his
stay on the plantation to visit the "Quarters," ostensibly to
see how his people were getting on, and incidentally, to
note that things were as they should be on the place.
Mingo was aware of this so he thought that on his future
visits to his sweetheart all he had to do was "to lay low"
until Mr. Ward had made his rounds. In this he was
successful for a time but--
"The best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft
Besides, young love is ever impatient.
One night he took his stand in his usual place of concealment. It had been raining and the weather was decidedly cold. He had waited long after the usual time for the gentleman's visits. "Spec de old feller ain't comin out tonight," he said to himself.
Mingo did not know Mr. Ward. The people on Pine Top expected their master at any hour, and were not surprised to have him present himself at their doors when he thought they were not looking
for him. He would sometimes even partake of roast possum or coon. Unaware of these habits Mingo hastened to meet the warm welcome that awaited him at Dolly's cabin. He was destined to receive a warmer welcome than the one he anticipated.
Uncle Josh and Aunt Peggy sat by the fire. Perhaps they were asleep. Dolly and Mingo were sitting at a small table as far away from the old folks as they possibly could get. "I bin ober to Cedar Hill las nite," he began, "An I see'd the new gal dey got. I tink she is----."
"I see'd her," interrupted Dolly, "An I tink she's just horred."
And Mingo deeming discretion the better part of valor said, "I tink so too."
Just then there was a loud rap on the door and Mr. Ward entered! Sometimes the very means we use to conceal our fears serve but to make them plain. The moment Mingo sighted Mr. Ward he became alarmed, but he must appear collected.
"Ebenin sah. Cole nite, sah. How is Missus and de chillun?"
Immediately Mr. Ward knew "the lay of the
land." "Oh they are all well. How are all at Laurel Grove?" he asked smoothly.
"Berry well, sah, all berry well."
Mr. Ward turned to speak to the old people, taking good care to place himself between Mingo and the door. When he started to leave the house he seemed to remember something. "Oh, by the way Mingo, did you have your ticket changed?"
"Mas Jeems, he bin gon ter town, sah, an Miss Liza say wait til he cum back."
"Ah, then you had it changed when he came back, did you?" Mr. Ward spoke very deliberately.
"When he git back I so busy I forgot, but I hab um fix sho fore I cum er gen, sah."
It was a cool night, but there were signs of perspiration on Mingo's face as he spoke. "I am afraid to trust your memory, Mingo," he said. Then he stepped to the door placing the silver mounted cow's horn which he always carried about the plantation, to his lips, blowing a loud blast.
Uncle Joe, as he was called by the Negroes, and, Daddy Joe as he was called by the white folks, was Mr. Ward's driver. He was a plantation Negro, the son of a plantation Negro, but he would not have answered to any of the descriptions usually given to the "plantation Negro." He did not have a receding forehead, a protruding jaw, nor bandy legs. In fact, he bore a striking resemblance to a well formed man. He had a thoughtful expression, and although he was rarely seen to smile, he had a pleasant countenance. He was not harsh with those over whom he had been placed. "Boy, doan lemme put me han on yo," was sufficient to bring the most refractory into line, and this was nor a mere figure of speech, for when his hand did drop on the shoulder of some erring culprit it came down with a force; the effects of which was felt for a long time after, for he was a man of unusual strength.
But Uncle Joe could laugh, and when he was Engaged in relating some particularly ludicrous Adventure of Brer Rabbit and Brer Wolf, to his two boys Joe and Hector, at night when the day's work was
done, his sonorous voice could be heard throughout the Quarters.
This night the old man had removed the tension from the boys' minds by completing a Jack O' Lantern story begun on the night before. The story was as follows:
"Wonce der was er man. He lib on won plantation en his wife an chillun dey lib on er noder, seben mile off. Von nite de man tink he go see dem, so he ketch a fat 'possum. He put de possum en some oder tings een er bag en start. Wen he git good way on de road he see er brite light. (Dem Jack O' Lantern always lookin out fur trabblers). De lite blin de man an he los de road. Fus ting he kno he fine heself een a swamp. Den de Jack O' Lantern laf en say, "Now I hab dar bag." De lite gon out quick en de man cudent see he han befo he face."
Here the old man pleaded weariness and sent the boys to bed, promising to finish the story the next night, for though Uncle Joe had never written a continued story he understood the art of creating a demand for the next number. All the following day the boys talked about the probable fate of the luckless
traveler. "I bet," said Joe, "Dat Jack Lantin tak de man bag, den kill um."
"He doan hab to kill um he self. All he hab ter do es to tak way he bag en lebe um een de dak, en sum ob dem bad wile varmint wat be een de swomp eat um up," answered Hector.
But to their great relief their father had skillfully extricated the poor fellow from his perilous position, bag and all, with no greater misfortune than the loss of his hat which was brushed off by the low hanging branches. His shoes came off in the soft mud of the place. These he did not stop to hunt for as he was glad to get out alive. The boys, thus satisfied went willingly to bed, while Uncle Joe settled himself for a quick no by the fire. Aunt Binah, his wife, busied herself cleaning up supper dishes. As she went about her work she hummed an old Plantation hymn; the humming grew louder as she Continued, and soon she began to sing--"I run From Pharo, lem me go."
This seemed to arouse her husband, for he Commenced to beat time with his foot. When she
reached the chorus he joined in and their strong voices blended harmoniously.
"De hebben bells er ringin, I kno de road
De hebben bells er ringin, I kno de road
De hebben bells er ringin, I kno de road,
King Jesus sittin by de watah side."
"Hush," said Aunt Binah, "Tink I yer de hon." They both listened attentively. Yes, there was another blast. "Wonder wha dat debble wan wid me now," said Uncle Joe. He slipped on his shoes, got his hat and coat, (meanwhile his wife had lighted his lantern), and hurried out. As he stepped outside a third blast assailed his ears; this to direct him, as Mr. Ward had seen the light.
"Um soun like he ober to Josh house. Wonder wha da him now?" he said to himself, hastening along.
"Ah Joe," said Mr. Ward as the driver reached Josh's cabin, "Mingo has forgotten my orders. Take him over to the barn and give him twenty lashes."
"Cum on boy," said Uncle Joe, not unkindly, yet in a tone that indicated there was to be no hanging
back. Under these circumstances Mingo must be
excused for not having lingered to say "Good
night." In fact, "his heart was too full for
utterance." And so the line of march was taken up
in silence, Uncle Joe leading with his lantern, Mingo
next, Mr. Ward bringing up the rear. When the
humiliating performance was over, the party broke
up. Mr. Ward returned to the house whistling
"From Greenland's icy mountains."
Uncle Joe, wending his way back to his cabin, sang in a low voice, "There's rest for the weary."
Poor Mingo neither sang nor whistled. As he painfully took the shortest cut for the main road he consoled himself with the thought that--"Faint heart never won fair lady." He did not put it just in that way. What he really did say to himself was "Well, sum time Man hab ter go tru heap to git wife."
Did he win his Dolly finally? We shall see.
"The Old Flag never touched the ground."
The Color Sergeant At Ballery Wagener
GAY hunting parties composed of friends from the city and ladies and gentlemen from the surrounding plantations often assembled at Pine Top. Many amusing tales were told there of the "Stag Fright" and blunders of amateur sportsmen on their first deer hunt. There was a Mr. Brabham, a carpenter, who being placed at a "stand" for the first time, and told not to let the deer pass him, waited in breathless anxiety. Soon a magnificent buck came bounding towards him almost within arms' reach. Throwing
up his arms wildly, his gun held aloft, he exclaimed, "I wish I had my hatchet!" while the terrified animal sped on to be brought down by a more collected hunter on the next stand.
This year however, the festivities were cut short for Mr. Ward was often called to the city as indeed were many of the other gentlemen who were accustomed to join the gay throng at Pine Top. It was soon known that they were attending Mass Meetings and Conventions. Sometimes Mr. Ward would be absent several days. There were strange whisperings among the Negroes. "Dat ting comin," they said mysteriously to each other, "Pray my brudder, pray my sister." I listened with wonderment, but was taught to say nothing.
Uncle August was Mrs. Ward's right hand man. He was equally at home in the fields or in the house, and could always be depended on in an emergency. He was full of humor, a born mimic, and could set those about him in gales of laughter, without seeming to try. Mrs. Ward frequently conversed with him when he was engaged in some task under her directions about the house, or grounds. One day while he was moving some pieces of furniture from
one room to another the lady said, "Daddy August, do you know there is going to be war?"
"War! ma'am, Wey, ma'am," Anyone who saw and heard the old man would have been ready to affirm most positively that this was the very first intimation he had had of the impending conflict.
His mistress certainly thought so.
"Why here," she replied.
"On dis plantation, ma'am?"
"Oh no, I don't mean that exactly, but you see, the Yankees are determined to take our Negroes from us, and we are equally determined that they shall never, never do so. Why Daddy August, don't we treat you all well?"
"Ob cose yo does, ma'am. Wha dey bodder deyself bout we fer?"
"That's just it; they are simply jealous to see us getting along so well, and they want to take our Negroes and put them at all kinds of hard work, like horses and mules. They are sending emissaries among our Negroes, to make them dissatisfied.
"Wha dem is, Miss Em'ly?" (Of course he had not the slightest idea what an emissary was!)
"Oh they are men who will try to sneak around
and talk to the Negroes."
"Wha dey gwine say?"
"Well, they will tell the Negroes that they are their best friends, and so on, just for the purpose of deceiving them you know."
For a second there was a twinkle in Uncle August's eyes which Mrs. Ward did not observe. "Mis Em'ly," he asked with a startled expression on his face, "Wha dem embissary look lak."
"Oh they will be in disguise, you know, but they try to look like our own people. Why?"
"Well yo kno, toder day wen I bin gon over ter Mr. Hudsin, ma'am? When I coming back an git mos to de big gate, I see er strange man comin' up de road. Time as I see un I tink dem "Kidnabber" cause you kno dey car off Mr. Hudsin Tom."
"Now Daddy August," interrupted Mrs. Ward, "I don't believe any kidnapper carried off that boy. I think he just ran away."
"Wha he hab ter run away fer, Mis Em'ly? I sho Mr. Hudsin es er good man!"
The aforementioned Tom was at this very moment on the way to freedom by means of the "Underground
Railroad," and this Uncle August knew very well.
Enyhow I fraid dem kidnapper so I mak hase git inside de gate. Wen he git ter de gate he call ter me "Cum yer. I wanter tell yo somting."
I say, "Cum een, sah."
He say, "No, yo cum yer."
I say, "I see Mas Henry cummin an I ain't ga time. (You kno Mas' Henry gon ter town dat day). Time as I say dat he hurry way."
"I see yo ergan," he say. Den I say ter maself I know dat da "kidnabber."
"Did you see him again?" asked Mrs. Ward quietly but she did not succeed in hiding her alarm from the old man. He knew what effect his story (and it was a great big one), would have.
"No, ma'am!" he answered, "An I doan wanter see um gan noder."
Mrs. Ward determined to acquaint her husband with what she had heard, as soon as possible. Therefore, when Mr. Ward returned from the city that evening, she informed him privately of what August had told her. He was even more disturbed than she
was. "And," she added, "Daddy August is frightened half to death."
They both concluded that the stranger was a Yankee spy. "It will not be good for him if I find him prowling about here," said Mr. Ward, "I shall question August further about it."
He found an opportunity that evening, without appearing to attach any importance to the incident, to question the old man closely. However, August had nothing to add to what he had told Mrs. Ward. He considered it was already a sufficient "whopper."
But Mr. Ward was uneasy. He told Uncle Joe to have two horses saddled, and they rode over to Mr. Hudson's. He did not acquaint the driver of the object of the visit, but that was not necessary as August and Joe had already had a hearty laugh over the hoax. From Mr. Hudson's they went to Mr. Benton's. To each of these gentlemen Mr. Ward related what he had heard. Neither of them had seen or heard of any stranger in the neighborhood. They both promised to look out, and if such was found it would not be their fault if he did not
give good account of himself. But the mysterious man was never found of course.
Some days after the incident just related Mrs. Ward was superintending some work which Uncle August was doing in the garden; setting out plants And the like, for it was now early spring. A team Drove up to the house and the men proceeded to Unload a tall pole. "Wha dey gwine do out dey, Mis Em'ly?" asked the old man innocently.
"Why they are going to set up a flagpole. You see we are to have a government of our own so we must have a flag of our own; the Confederate flag. It is going to be a very pretty one, too."
"No priteer dan de old flags upstars."
"Oh yes, a great deal prettier," but the lady was thinking of the old flag her father and grandfather had fought under."
The old man glanced at her. "Well," he said, "It hab ter be berry puty ter beat de old flag." There was more in his words than he meant his mistress to understand.
"Daddy August," said Mrs. Ward, as though not
wishing to speak any more about flags, "We will put that right here," (alluding to a plant the old man held in his hands).
August did as directed, but he was not quite through yet. Presently he said, "Mis Em'ly, wha yo gwine do wid de old flag? Yo pa an yo granpa use ter tink er heap ob dat one."
"Burn it up!" replied Mrs. Ward in rather a vehement tone.
Uncle August knew he had said enough.
It was now about the middle of April 1861. Important matters seemed to require Mr. Ward's attention in the city, and much of his time was spent there. One evening Mrs. Ward told Uncle Ben he must meet Mr. Ward at the station the following day with a pair of horses. He usually used a single horse and a dog cart for this purpose. "Sumting up," said the old coachman to himself.
Mr. Ward had not been home for near two weeks. The Negroes on the plantation knew war was approaching, for though they could not read the newspapers, it is remarkable how well posted they were
in regard to the trend of events. They knew also that their master's long absence was to be accounted for in the coming conflict. His return therefore, was anxiously awaited by them; as they hoped to gain some information as to how matters actually stood.
The next morning Uncle Ben had his team in tip top shape, and rigged up with his regulation coachman's outfit, including his shiny silk hat. He carried Jake along to open the gates. "I kno wha he want," he had said, "But wait little bit." And he drove away.
As they left the station Mr. Ward said, "Save your horses Ben," but when they swung into the plantation avenue he told the coachman to "let them go."
Uncle Ben pulled up his lines, drew the whip lightly across his horses and said, "Git out."
Tom and Jerry responded and they came up the "home stretch" in fine style. The whole family stood on the front porch waving their handkerchiefs. Mr. Ward waved his in return. As Uncle
Ben drew up at the stepping stone, Mr. Ward sprang out, ran up the steps, embraced his wife and children, and kissed his mother-in-law, (a thing which I believe men seldom do). "We have taken the fort," he said, as they entered the house.
THAT night conflicting emotions governed those who lived on "Pine Top" plantation. In the big house there was gladness and rejoicing, while at the Quarters there was groaning and lamentation. The Negro believed that as long as Major Anderson held Fort Sumter their prospects were at least hopeful; but when Sumter fell, they felt that their hopes were all in vain. Though the future looked dark, there were two on the place who never gave up; Uncle Ben and Aunt Lucy. You are acquainted
with the old man already. Aunt Lucy was the plantation nurse. Years of hard and faithful toil in the fields had gained for her respite from active labor. It was her sole duty now to take care of the young children of the women who had to go into the rice and cotton fields, and those mothers were glad indeed to have such a kind christian woman as she was to look after their little ones while they were at work. The old woman, though well on in years, was still hale and hearty. "Min, wha I tell yo. De Master gwine bring we out," were her words of encouragement to those who were ready to despair. Uncle Ben's words were, "Dem buckra kin laf now, but, wait tel bime by.'
Between the "big house" and the Quarters there was a spring from which the people got their drinking water. Every afternoon a long line of children might have been seen with "piggins" on their heads, taking in the supply for the night. On the evening of Mr. Ward's return, the children did not appear. In their stead, and at a later hour, their parents came. It was noticeable too, that they lingered at the spring, being concealed from view by the trees that grew about it. The reason of all this was that
arrangement had been made with Jake that as soon as possible after dinner, he was to run down and tell them any news he might gather during that meal. Jake, as a possible gatherer of news! Why that was absurd! He was spry enough about the house and dining-room, but otherwise he was as dense as a block of stone. At least, that was what his master would have said of him. This density on the part of the Negro was, in fact, a weapon of defense--the only one he had. Do you think Captain Small could have run the Planter out of Charleston harbor if it was thought he had sense enough to do so? No, indeed! He never would have had the chance.
I said Jake was to run down. That was a mistake. He was much too wise for that. After dinner was over he sauntered down the back steps as soon as he could. Upon reaching the ground, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked slowly toward the spring, whistling, "Way Down Upon the Swanee River," as though he didn't have an idea in his head. "He comin' now," said Aunt Lucy, "Well mi son, wha he say," as the boy drew near.
"Well, ma'am, dy tak de fote. We done now" was heard on all sides.
"Wait, chilun, hope pray," was the old woman's encouraging words as she proceeded to question the boy further. "Wha dey do wid Majer Ande'son?"
"Dey le him go."
"Wha dey say bout him?"
"O he say do Majer es er brave man. He mak er speech befo he cum out. He say, (and Jake drew himself up to imitate the Major) "Genlemen, if I had food fer my men, an ambunachun I be dam if I wed le yo cum on dose gates!"
"Amen, bress de Lawd!" cried the old woman.
"O Ant Lucy!" said Manda, the housemaid, abashed at the old woman's endorsement of the somewhat impious remarks of the gallant Major.
"Hole yo tong yo braze piece. Go on Jake mi son."
But the boy had little more to tell and so the people went sadly back to their cabins. Aunt Lucy's parting words were, "Hope chilun, pray chilun."
The next day Mr. Ward gave Uncle Sempie orders to prepare for a large dinner party that would be given by him in a few days. This was to be another addition to the long list of similar functions that had taken place at Pine Top under the supervision
of the old butler. Among them there was one to which the old man often referred with special pride. It was the great dinner given by Mrs. Ward's grandfather, (for Pine Top had been the home of the Bale's for generations), in honor of the Hon. John C. Calhoun.
When the day for Mr. Ward's great dinner came, the guests began to arrive early; some on horseback, others in carriages, the coachmen vying with each other in the style in which they came up the avenue, and pulled up at the stepping stone. There were distinguished ladies and gentlemen. There were horses that had records, and some of the coachmen had records, too. York, Mr. Boyleston's coachman was one of these. His horses always showed the best of care and his stables were models of neatness and appointment. He had three well grown stable boys under him who were kept at rubbing and polishing constantly. The boys slept at the stable while York occupied a neat little cabin on a hill a short distance away. Seen early in the mornings coming down to look after his stock, with a cigar in his mouth, he might easily have been taken for Mr.
Boyleston himself. As he neared the stable he would say, "Ahem!" and each boy popped his head out and would say, "Sah." Upon entering he went through a minute inspection, and it was for their best interest if everything was found in perfect order. York had the record of having once knocked his master down.
The circumstances which led to this daring performance were these: Mr. Boyleston took great pride in his horses. His stock was always of the finest strain, and it may be added that he appreciated his coachman's ability as a whip and manager. His special pride was a span of dark gray trotters of undoubted pedigree. For these he had bought an expensive pair of blankets. "Now, York," he had said, "These blankets have cost me a great deal of money. Be very careful with them. Never allow the horses to wear them at night."
York took as much pride in those beautiful coverings for his horses as did his master. He never permitted the boys to touch them, but each morning after the finishing touches to the animals, he adjusted them with his own hands. One morning he
led the horses out on to the floor of the barn, hitched them, and threw the blankets lightly over them, while he took another horse outside to water. Unfortunately he had tied the animals too closely together. They began biting at each other as horses are wont to do. One of them got his teeth into the blanket of the other, pulled it down on the floor, and together they trampled it under hoofs. The boys were at work at a distant part of the place therefore could not see what was going on. When York returned he was dismayed at the sight. The once beautiful blanket now stained and torn, lay under the feet of the horses! He picked it up, but there was nothing he could do to repair the damage. He placed it on the horse as best be could. To add to his confusion be saw Mr. Boyleston coming down to the stables for his usual morning inspection. The coachman walked to the further end of the barn, pretending to be engaged at some work, while his heart beat almost loud enough to be heard.
"York," called out Mr. Boyleston as soon as he entered and his eyes fell on the damaged blanket, "Did I not tell you never to let the horses wear
their blankets at night?"
"I dident, sah, de----."
"You are a----liar, sir----."
Out flew York's right arm before he knew it, and down went his master. He walked out into the lot, folded his arms, and stood facing the door. Mr. Boyleston got up. As he came to the door York said, "Shoot me down, sah." His master drew his revolver. "Fire, sah, I'se ready," and York stood unflinchingly.
Mr. Boyleston put up his pistol. "Come here to me, York," he said.
"May I come to you?"
"Yees, sah! I wudent ham a hair on yo head."
"York," said Mr. Boyleston walking out to his coachman, "How came that blanket to be in such a condition?"
York gave his master a straight account of the whole occurrence. "Here is my hand; I was wrong," was Mr. Boyleston's magnanimous answer, "Do not mention this to anyone."
There were not many masters like this one.
Mr. Ward's dinner was a grand affair, and no one rejoiced at its success more than old Uncle Sempie. After dinner the party went out on the lawn where a stand had been erected. Amid cheers the new flag was raised and many gentlemen made speeches which all seemed to be aimed at the "White House." I did not know where that was, but Uncle Ben said it was where "dem buckra wud nebah git." Later I learned that the White House was at Washington, and sure enough they never got there.
Mr. Ward now deemed it necessary to have the plantation carefully guarded at night. For this purpose he chose two young Negroes, brothers, Titus and Pompey. The confidence the southern white had in the Negro, and the fidelity of the latter to the trust reposed in them speak volumes. Here was this master perfectly satisfied to place the safety of himself and family in the hands of these men, on whom, at that moment, he was seeking to rivet the chains of slavery forever. The men were to relieve each other, and at stated intervals, if things were all right, they were to come under Mr. Ward's window
and sing out, "All is well!" If things were otherwise, they were to pull a knob which would ring a bell in their master's room.
Titus was noted for his prodigious strength, and an equally enormous appetite. He created great amusement one night during his watch by standing under the window and shouting, "All is well and I'se hungry!" Mr. Ward took the hint and thereafter the men were each provided with a large "hoe cake," lined with fat bacon every night before going on duty.
The time drew near for our return to the city. We must not remain on the plantation after the tenth of May, for those not acclimated are liable to contract malarial fever. Soon we bid farewell to the old place and to the many kind friends we had met there. The kind-hearted people loaded us with simple gifts. My stay in the country had been most pleasant.
"Mischief, thou art afoot."
ON arriving in Charleston we found great excitement there. Men were going about the streets wearing blue cockades on the lapels of their coats. These were the "minute men," and the refrain was frequently heard,
"Blue cockade and rusty gun
We'll make those Yankees run like fun."
Soldiers on parade often passed by our house,
and we ran to see them. One day a troop of horses went by. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs and the officers saluted. I heard they were on their way to the "Front." I wanted very much to know where that was, therefore, when Uncle Ben and I went to the stable I asked, "Uncle Ben, where's the 'Front?' "
The old man made me no immediate reply. In fact, he never did. Knowing he heard me I waited patiently. Presently he looked up:--"De front, boy, es de place weh dem young buckra gwine ketch de debble," he said, and resumed his work.
Mr. Ward had received a commission in the army with headquarters at Secessionville. It chanced that Mr. Edward Dane was appointed on his staff, and he took my brother, several years older than myself, into the army with him. But the dear boy contracted fever and soon died. Later, the command was removed to another point in the harbor, and for a short time I took my brother's place as officer's boy! And here I must admit I wore the "gray." I have never attended any of the Confederate reunions. I suppose they overlooked my name on the army roll! I carried a knapsack, too. My uniform consisted of a confederate gray jacket, blue pants, and a Beauregard cap. My knapsack
was somewhat smaller than the regulation article, and was covered with glazed leather. It usually contained clothes going to or from the washerwoman in the city. I had a day in the city every week and thus had ample time to do my shopping which usually consisted of five molasses groundnut cakes, at one dollar each! They were not quite as large as those you get for a penny now, either. Once I went to buy a pair of shoes and the storekeeper charged me seventy dollars for them. I tried several other stores and finally got a pair for sixty-five dollars. Talk about things being high now, why then most things were literally "out of sight"--especially things to eat.
In the early part of our day on the Island things were reasonably plentiful. The real business of the struggle had not yet begun, and General Ward still had cattle at Pine Top. It was his custom to occasionally have a lamb or a "Harry Dick" dressed on the plantation and shipped down to the Island. On these he regaled himself and brother officers. And, "Hereby hangs a tale," from which we get another glimpse of the general's limitation for the Negro.
General Ward had a boat's crew of six men. With one exception they were detailed soldiers--up country
men--who had little knowledge of the management of boats. The exception was Dick Brown, a Negro fisherman. As is well known the fishermen in and around Charleston have no superiors in the handling of small craft on the river, or in the open sea. Dick pulled the stroke oar, acted as coach, and when the wind was fair, he sailed the boat. Relying on Dick's skill and knowledge the general had never missed a trip on account of weather. On one occasion he presented his crew with a side of meat and they appointed one of their number who had had some experience as a butcher, to cut up and share it. The general chanced to pass by while the sharing was in progress. "Ah boys," said he, "Sharing up?"
"Yes sir," replied the butcher, "There are six of us and I am trying to divide as equally as possible."
"Oh well now, I certainly want Dick to have a portion, but I did not expect him to share equally with you white men; a Negro must never share equally with a white man, you know. Where was Dick while this was going on? He stood right among the speakers together with Jake, the general's boy and I, for Mr. Ward would never think
of being so "unjust" to a Negro as to speak behind his back.
There are two of us alive today. I don't know where General Ward is, but I do know that he is dead. Shot did sometimes fall thick and fast on the Island, but then, the general, had the benefit of the sea breeze!
The command was soon ordered to Virginia, and I, being too young to be taken along, was given an indefinite furlough.
During the latter part of my stay on the Island things were tight. As for provisions, well, there weren't any to speak of. Ground-seed corn and hominy with an occasional piece of bacon, was considered very acceptable. These advocates of "plain food" should have been with us. Nothing could have been more plain than our fare. I don't believe it was unhealthy either, although I have had no desire to try it again. "Pie" is good enough for me. For coffee we had parched grist steeped and sweetened with molasses, "Mule Blood" brand. I went over from the Island in Mr. Ward's boat every Saturday. They were steamers that ran regularly to our Island, ("The Planter," of heroic memory was one of
these), but they only crossed at night so as to avoid "salutes" from the blockading fleet. Most of the officers of our command kept row boats in which they could reach the city at their pleasure. Our landing place at first was Market Dock, but when General Gilmore began to raise the temperature in the lower part of the city, we moved our moorings further uptown; for it would have been rather unpleasant to be standing on a wharf and have a shell come whistling by taking one's head off. Furthermore, the head might roll overboard, or else the kind comrade who picked it up might, in his haste, be apt to clap it on again upside down, or backside front; and like the lady who did not receive an invitation to the "pink tea," one would never feel the same again.
"The Old Coffee" and "DeKalb" belonged to our fleet. Captain Christian of the "Coffee" was one of the most popular seamen at the port of Charleston-- "as jolly an old sea dog as ever drank grog." I always returned to the Island at night by steamer. Several times, random shots fell near us but we were never hit, and soon got used to them. When
one came skipping toward us we simply said, "Shoo fly." At this time I was about ten years old, and rather small for my age. I shall never forget the peals of laughter that greeted my first appearance at headquarters. I boarded the Old Coffee at "Market Dock" and was met on the other side by Mr. Dane who took me up to the place. Then I was taken into a large room in which were General Ward, Captain Parker, Lieutenant Tompson and Jenks. "What in thunder are you going to do with that boy!" they cried in unison.
"This boy is all right Jim," said Mr. Dane looking at Lieutenant Tompson, "He can ride." The laugh was now turned on the lieutenant who, as I afterwards learned, had been thrown from his horse a few days before.
My duties were very light. If any of the old soldiers are now living who were on that Island at that time, (1862-63), remember seeing an officer splendidly mounted, followed by a mite of a Negro boy also mounted, galloping over the Island, the boy was myself.
Those who remained at home in the South had many privileges to bear, of which I got my full share. Things that we consider common necessities now, were luxuries then. The people who sometimes clamor for war have no conception of what it really is. But let us not dwell on these harrowing times of the past. May we never see the likes again!
TURKEYS and even chickens were very scarce on our Island. It is remarkable how quickly these creatures disappear from the neighborhood of a soldier's camp during war times, especially when rations are scant. I suppose they become alarmed and fly away. Some people may be of a contrary opinion, but we will let that pass.
Adjoining our Quarters there lived an Irishman who owned some turkeys. Besides these there was not so much as a turkey feather for miles around. At this time one of these festive birds was worth his
weight in gold. But, there was no gold in circulation hence the amount of confederate money it would have taken to buy one would have equalled the turkey himself--at least in bulk. When Mr. O'Flanagan wanted to buy a piece of real estate, or make some similar investment, he just sold one of his turkeys to some young officer who was willing to part with a small fortune. For these and other reasons you may be sure that Pat kept watchful eyes on his flock.
One afternoon one of these turkeys, without the fear of consequences, flew over into our yard. We had a dog that would "fetch," therefore, Jake quietly remarked, "Sic um, Bull." In less than no time Bull had that turkey by the neck, and in equally short order, Jake had that bird in the bag.
The fence between the lots was a high one. Those on the other side would not see what was going on in our yard, but they heard the dog chasing the turkey. Therefore, it was not long before Mr. O'Flanagan presented himself to the sentinel at the gate. "I wud loike to go in an git me turkey," he said.
Now the soldier had seen what was going on, and with visions of a midnight roast before him, had become a party to the transaction. With a view of allowing Jake time to "cover his tracks" he resorted to "dilatory" measures. "What kind of a turkey was it," he asked with an innocent look on his face, And when he could think of no other questions to ask he told the man he would have to see one of the officers. "There is General Ward coming up the street now," he said, and Pat hastened to meet the general.
"Yr haner, one av me turkeys flyed over de fince an oi belave some wan was afther sittin the dorg on im."
We have already seen that General Ward was a strict disciplinarian even in civil life. He was no less so as a military man therefore he told the Irishman to go in and look for his property, and if he found that any damage had been done to it, he should have ample satisfaction, as he never allowed any crooked proceedings about his headquarters.
In Pat went. He searched in all the out-buildings,
high and low without success. He went to the kitchen where Jake was busy getting the general's supper. "The Ginral said oi cud luk fer me turkey. De dorg----"
"Dog nebbah bring no turkey een yer," said Jake, "Yo ken look, doe."
But the search revealed no trace of the missing bird and Mr. Patrick O'Flanagan left muttering "imprecations not loud but deep."
Does the devil take care of his own? I don't know, but during the hunt in the kitchen Jake's heart was in his mouth, for the turkey was hanging peacefully in a bag behind the door where he might easily have been seen if Pat had only looked there.
I do not know whatever became of it. It was never cooked in that kitchen. Jake became alarmed and took it away under cover of night.
Many a story is told about the camp fire, and many a dainty bite goes round that never came from the commissary.
"If thine enemy hunger, feed him."
IN a previous chapter I promised to say something further about Mr. Bale. It was his habit to spend a week or more with his mother every year, and during our stay at Mrs. Bale's, and after our return from Pine Top he made one of his yearly visits, bringing his wife and child, nurse, coachman, and three horses.
It is said that no man is wholly bad. If this is true why the young man of whom we are going to speak must have had his redeeming qualities. But they were never manifested in the treatment of his slaves. He was a very young man. His father had died when the son had barely reached his majority, and he was left in sole control of the large plantation on which were more than four hundred Negroes.
It was said, he had from his youth exhibited an ugly disposition, and this early elevation to power did not tend to improve his character. In many instances where the master was harsh, the mistress was considerate; while in others the reverse was true. In either of these cases the servants had a chance, but where both were alike inconsiderate, the fate of the slave was hard indeed. . . . Young Mrs. Bale was hard to please.
Some say that even the devil is not as black as he is painted. I never could endorse that statement. I have always thought he was as black as it was possible to paint him, and a great deal blacker. At any rate I am free to say there was not one, single, mitigating feature in the treatment of those unfortunate creatures who had to serve Tom Bale; they all suffered. A double share seemed to fall to the lot of "London," the coachman. To say that this poor fellow had a hard time would convey but a faint idea of his condition. He was competent, faithful and submissive, but these qualities did not secure for him the slightest consideration. Frequently, after going
over the cushion, etc., with her handkerchief, his mistress would send the carriage back to the stable as being "Absolutely too dusty to ride in." The slightest complaint from Mrs. Bale exasperated his master against him and he was often severely punished even though he had done all in his power to have everything in perfect order. His patient fortitude under cruel treatment was indeed wonderful. Despite the terrible hardships he had to endure, he managed to extract some pleasures from his occupation. He loved his horses and often spoke of them in terms of endearment. "Dem boys nebber mak me shame yit," he would say in speaking of them, "Wen I say cum Daddy, cum Spug, de Nigger dat pick me up got ter kno wha he bout."
London and I were best friends, and so as to be on hand each morning when he went to the stable I was permitted to occupy a cot in his room, for I liked to go with him. He went much earlier than Uncle Ben. The poor fellow was glad to have me with him at night. It was a relief to him to have someone to talk to. He would tell me about the fine
horses he had handled, and others he had known: Of Old Tar River, Bonnet so Blue and Clara Fisher. When he was seated on his box flourishing his whip with the easy grace of the experienced southern coachmen, one would not think his life was the terrible grind it really was.
One morning at a very early hour I heard Tom Bale calling from the yard, "London, London!" I tried to rouse the sleeping man without success. Presently I heard the heavy tread of his master coming upstairs.--And London slept!--The balmy air of that spring morning was seductive. The night had been rather warm and London was not encumbered with any superfluous clothing. Now London was very careful with his whips. They were not allowed to lay about carelessly, but were suspended from a rack of polished wood, made for the purpose, and hung against the wall in his room. There was one gold mounted, one mounted with silver, and one was adorned with carved ivory, one had a dainty little red ribbon bow on it, while the two others were decorated respectively with white and yellow.
Bale pushed open the door and strode into the room. He looked at the sleeping coachmen a moment, then, with a muttered imprecation, took down one of those whips; I don't know which. I heard the "swish" through the air, for by that time I had covered my head. Blow after blow descended upon him until the blood started. "Now," said the tyrant fairly exhausted, "Go down and hitch up my horse! I told you to have my buggy ready early this morning." The abused and bleeding Negro hastened to obey.
Tom Bale had intended that morning to drive up alone to one of his plantations twenty miles from the city. He had hitched a fast young horse to a light buggy. The mistreated London who had handled this animal from a colt had once ventured to warn his master about driving him with an open bridle. In truth, he tried to prevent Bale from possibly having his neck broken. That b-- d--, the bully had replied, "I want his head to show. He has the finest head in South Carolina."
But that morning it appears retributive justice was at his heels, for, late that afternoon the horse reached the plantation with a part of the harness clinging to him; clearly evident a runaway. As you probably know this created no small stir in the place. A searching party was sent out immediately. "Here Caesar, you take Sancho and two or three others. Hasten out, take lanterns with you. I will follow with a team," and Jim Black, the overseer, hurried away to the barn.
It was remarkable how much time Caesar managed to consume in getting ready though apparently using all possible expedition. At last they were off. "Cum on boys," he said as they got out into the main road and he started on a brisk run in the direction in which it was least likely to find the missing man. They had gone nearly a quarter of a mile before Black drove out. He yelled at them to come back. Their confusion was so very evident that he simply abused them roundly as a pack of blockheads, and sent them down the road toward the city.
They hunted some miles before any trace of Tom Bale was discovered. At last they found a piece of leather--some part of the harness. It was now quite dark. Lanterns and torches were lighted. A little further on they came to a place where the vehicle had evidently left the road. A few hundred yards out in the pine woods the upset buggy was seen, and nearly lay the young man, pale and unconscious. Even Ceasar felt pity for him.
He was lifted into the wagon in which the overseer had thoughtfully placed a small mattress. He had also dispatched a messenger on horseback who met them on their way back. Upon a hasty examination the physician found that Bale had one leg broken and his shoulders severely bruised. It was weeks before he could be removed to the city, and months after the accident before he was able to get about.
The summary visitation of Providence, should, it would seem, have cured this rash young man; but it did not. At this time the war is on and Tom Bale
is impatiently awaiting his physician's permission to join his regiment at the front. The newspapers are giving glowing accounts of Confederate victories. The white people are exultingly jubilant, and the Negroes correspondingly sad and depressed, for though they cannot read the newspapers they are well posted as to the news that comes in.
One morning Mr. Thomas Bale was seated on his piazza in Charleston, reading. The reports of Confederate success pleased him. London, with his heart bowed down was sweeping the sidewalk in front of the house when a fellow sufferer passing by stopped to exchange the usual morning greeting.--
"Mornin' brudder Lon'on."
"Mornin' mi brudder."
"How yo gittin on?"
"O mi brudder, ha'd time, an wus cumin," was London's sad reply.
Out flew his master, and with the heavy cane he had carried out since his accident he felled the poor slave to the earth. "Say better times are coming, you rascal," he stormed, re-entering the house.
And what did much abused Negro do? The war being over Tome Bale returned to his home broken in health and fortune; for despite his injured leg he had gone into the war and remained until the end came. At this time many of the men who were engaged in the southern side during the war, not knowing what would be their fate under the new order of things, were hastening out of the country. Bale was among these. He was forced to leave his family inadequately provided for. However, he was still a young man and hoped to retrieve his fortune in a foreign land, or at least to remain away until things were settled.
It was a terrible blow to his young wife with two children to be so suddenly reduced from affluence to poverty. . . . But, there was a friend at hand-- London. He had secured a situation as teamster with a wholesale house that had resumed business in the city; and every Saturday evening found him at the door of the house in which Mrs. Bale lived with packages of tea, coffee, sugar, butter, etc., such as she had been accustomed to and could no longer afford to buy; bought with his own money, from the
same exclusive establishment where she formerly dealt. Occasionally when passing that way with his truck he would leave ham at the door. This continued until the death of the lady. Tom Bale never returned. It was said he fell a victim to malaria and died in a far away land.
It is but a few years since London went to his reward. He became a deacon in his church before he died, and on many a Thursday night meeting he would stand and sing:--
"What troubles have we seen
What conflicts have we passed!
But out of all the Lord
Had brought us by his love.
And still he doth his grace
Afford, and hides our lives above."
while tears of gratitude rolled down his cheeks. He had lived to dwell "under his own vine and fig tree, with none to molest or make him afraid."
"As we forgive those who trespass against us."
IT is more pleasant to me than otherwise that I have no other similar instance of cruelty to relate, coming under my own observation like that of Tom Bale's. Although the following may not be called cruel, still it is not devoid of severity and harshness.
Among our neighbors there was a family whose servant had rather a hard time of it. The family was very religious but not liberal minded. All their servants had to attend the family church.
One of the ladies had a maid whose lot was hard indeed. She was only allowed to wear such dresses as her mistress prescribed, and these were always made of the coarsest material after an original design. She was never permitted to wear a bonnet, but must have her head tied with a bandanna. No idea of economy prompted the mistress. There were those mean enough to say that it was done because Silla was very pretty and the lady was so plain.
Now the maid was fond of dress. She also had strong religious sentiments but they were different from those of her mistress. She was also an expert needle-woman, and her brother who "hired his time" and "worked out," furnished her with material which she fashioned to suit herself--working at night and at odd times. Sometimes on Sundays she managed to attend the church of her choice, arrayed in such garments as she desired, being careful however, to leave the house after the family had gone, and to return before their arrival. But she came to grief at last.
It was during a season of great excitement in religious circles in the city. The Baptists were making
heavy inroads on the Methodist Camp, and the latter found it necessary to bring out their heavy artillery. Many eminent Divines noted for their piety, learning and eloquence had been invited by the Methodist clergy to assist in calming the fears of their flocks. Silla was a strong Methodist, therefore when it was announced that on a certain Sunday a Reverend Gentlemen of matchless eloquence would preach, she determined to hear him. It was said that this particular sermon had the effect of sending the wavering ones back to their ranks; for, after an impassioned appeal to his hearers to stand firm, he closed his eloquent discourse as follows:--
"Let others glory in the water
I glory in the blood."
I need not tell you that on that Sunday Silla appeared in a beautiful dress made in the latest style, a rich mantilla, and a bonnet that was not inexpensive. Altogether she presented a very enviable appearance.
When she was ready to start out Aunt Cinda, the old nurse, said to her, "Now gal, yo luk berry nice indeed, but doan le dem tings tun yo hed so de buckra git home for yo."
"O no ma'am, Aunt Cinda, I'll be in time."
But alas! What with a word of greeting here, and a word of congratulation there, after service, the time slipped by. As Silla sped homeward she became aware of the fact that she was late. She quickened her pace, but "Time lost can never be regained." Miss Octavia had reached home before she got there.
On reaching the house the lady had immediately called for her maid, and she was quite surprised to find that she had not yet returned from church. Therefore, she took her seat on the piazza which commanded a full view of the servants' entrance, determined to ascertain from Silla as soon as she came in, the meaning of her tardiness. The lady was not in a pleasant frame of mind either, as she was quite thirsty and wanted a drink of water.
As Silla timidly opened the gate and put her head in she would have withdrawn it, but... "Walk in here, madam!" came from her mistress in tones that were not to be misunderstood, "Where have you been?"
"To church, ma'am."
"What church, pray?"
"And who gave you those horrid things you have on?"
"Bobber Jim, ma'am."
"He did, eh! Come right in here."
Silla's heart sank within her as she meekly obeyed. Miss Octavia followed her servant into the house. "Get me some old newspapers," she said. "Place them in that grate. Take off that hat and lay it on the paper. Now get a match and set the fire." And the poor girl stood there and saw her beautiful bonnet go up in smoke.
"Now madam, go and take off those things and never let me see you with them on again!"
Silla served Miss Octavia for a long time after the war. The lady is dead now, but the maid is still living in Charleston, South Carolina.
"He will give His angels charge concerning thee."
WHILE we were at Mrs. Bale's and before I went "into camp," I had the following sad experience:-- Up to this event it had never dawned upon me that my condition was not as good as that of any boy in the country. With kind parents, two sweet little sisters, an affectionate brother, gentle companions to play with, and every boyish wish gratified, the improbability of my succession to the presidential chair never once occurred to me. But now I was made to feel that life was not all "one pleasant dream."
One day my mother received a message calling her down to the Dane's. When she returned she
seemed very sad, and upon my father's arrival home I saw them in earnest conversation. Before I went to bed that night my mother told me that I would have to go with her to the Dane's on the next day. "The Old Jay wants to see you," she said.
I was greatly pleased at this for it was a long time since I had been there. When we arrived the next day I found all the servants arrayed as if for some holiday occasion and I also found that they were to be "praised." However, I couldn't understand why persons dressed up as they were, and who had been bought together for commendation, should look so sad. I did not know what I had done deserving of special mention, but I did remember that sometime before my horse ran away with me through the crowded streets, and that I had managed to keep my seat. I finally brought the animal to a stand without any damage. Therefore, I thought I would receive a gold medal, or perhaps "four pence" in money. But to be certain, I would ask Cora what it all meant.
I found her seated alone on a bench in the yard looking more beautiful than ever. "Cora," said I, "What is all of this about?". . . Instead of answering my questions she began to cry and she took
hold of me and hugged and kissed me right there in the yard, before all those people!! My, didn't I blush!
The fact was, kind reader, as you have already surmised, the "Estate" was to be sold, and the people had been brought together for "appraisement."
Several gentlemen came out into the yard. The people stood up, and the gentlemen went among them asking questions. One of them placed his hand on my head. . . . "Well, my boy," said he, "What can you do?"
"I can ride, Sir," I answered, whereupon my mother gave me a gentle nudge which meant, "Hush." She then explained to him that my brother and I were not to be sold for she had earnestly requested Mr. Dane not to "sell" us. She knew that we should receive good treatment as long as we were in his hands, and that if we went with her, the Negro Traders would soon separate us. With many protestations Mr. Dane had promised her that he would not sell us even if he had to go barefoot. He kept his word, but my mother and two little sisters went and for four years, we neither saw nor heard of each other. When "the cruel war was over" we were brought together again, and you may know there
was a happy meeting for--"He had given his angels charge concerning us." We were all there to greet the gallant Major Anderson when he returned to raise the "Old Flag" over Fort Sumter.
" 'Twas the star spangled banner
And long may it wave,
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave."
The war was ended. The Union had come. Soon the schools were thrown open, and under the leadership of the enthusiastic Redpart, and that noble band of pioneer men and women from the North, the children flocked to them. Surely there must be a future for a people so eager to learn as is the Negro, and though we are not yet out of the woods,
"We are coming, Father Abraham
Full many a million strong."
"Hear the loud alarum bell."
ON the night of December 11th, 1861, our dear old home on Guignard street was destroyed by fire. This was the greatest conflagration that has happened in Charleston during my lifetime.
It broke out at, or near the corner of East Bay and Hasel Streets, and swept in a direction across the city to the very edge of Ashley River, at the other side of town; licking up nearly everything in its patch. When the alarm was given Ward 3, we hurried out from Mrs. Bate's where we were living
at that time. Not very far away from the old place, looking in that direction, we saw the flames leaping up, and hastened on. The sparks seemed to rain down from the heavens as we ran. When we reached there, we found the engines pouring streams of water on the house, while there was a long line of men reaching from the well in the yard, up the back stairs to the roof of the house, passing buckets of water from one to another.
The devoted ladies stood by encouraging them. "Water! More water!" they cried. But it was all unavailing. The fire soon caught the piazzas, then burst in the windows and doors seeming to say, "Who would stay the 'Fire King?' " Soon the old home together with nearly all of the neighboring houses was a mass of ruin. On swept the flames reaching Broad Street. They raged about the Cathedral. It was thought that owing to the material of which that beautiful structure was built, it would have escaped, but no--under the fierce onslaught of the devouring element, the costly and magnificent edifice melted away; and onward the fire sped, not stopping until it reached the waters of the Ashley River.
I do not know the casualties that attended this distressing event, but the property loss was very great.
"Let us have peace."
IT was late in the Fall of 1865 that Mr. Ward was on his way to join his family. As soon as possible after the surrender of Richmond, he had made a hasty visit to Charleston to assure himself of their safety, but had returned to Richmond after a few days stay with them to engage in some clerical work
he had previously secured in that city; the compensation for which he found himself sorely in need of at that time. He was now on his way to join them permanently. He had an irresistible impulse however to visit the old plantation. As the train sped on, the desire grew upon him, therefore when they pulled up at the little station, White House, he got off, determined to walk out to the place. It is worthy of note that this man did not for a moment doubt that he would be kindly received by his former slaves, if any remained there.
Fortunately he met an old friend at the station who gladly provided him with a horse on which he rode out to the plantation, beset by emotions better imagined than described. As he turned from the road into the long avenue a mass of ruins met his eyes. The noble old house had been destroyed by fire! With a sad heart he rode on.
Uncle Joe was at work burning stubble in a nearby field. As he raised his eyes they rested on the lone horsemen. "Wonder who da him," he said as he started to meet the stranger, "Um, ee luk like
Mass Willum, Lord bless me!"
As the two men drew near each other Mr. Ward leaped from his horse and extending his hand he cried, "Joe!"
"Mas Willum!" sobbed the old Negro.
They fell on each others necks and wept like children. Oh why did the designing stranger and the native demagogue enter to thwart this auspicious opening of a new era between these men?
After a while they started toward Uncle Joe's cabin. Mr. Ward refused to remount though urged to do so by the old man. As they walked along Mr. Ward inquired about those he had left on the place. Some had gone away. They had sought the city. It were well for many of these if they had remained on the plantation, for the town held many snares and temptations to which they were unaccustomed, and to which they fell a prey. Old Uncle Josh and his wife had gone to Mrs. Ward in Charleston. Uncle Josh was not inclined to leave the plantation, but his wife was anxious to go and see how Mrs. Ward was faring, and if she could be of any help
to her. Thus they went.
Mrs. Ward was more than glad to see her old friends. "I thank you very much for coming to me at this time," she said to Aunt ----, but I am not able to offer you any wages, for I am without means now."
"I a'int cum fer yo money, Chile," the old woman answered, "Ef yo doan need my sarbis I ken go back."
"Oh you dear creatures, you know how much I need you. I only meant that I cannot pay you anything just now."
And so the old woman took charge, greatly to the relief of Mrs. Ward, also to that of Uncle August who had been constantly with his mistress, and was acting in the capacity of general house servant. The advent of Aunt Peggy allowed him a chance to go out doing odd jobs, thereby earning a few dollars. He steadily refused to accept any work that would take him away permanently from Mrs. Ward. The lady could offer comfortable quarters to Uncle Josh and his wife. The old man soon obtained work in the city and the three servants lived on the premises until they died. It is doubtful if Mrs. Ward ever
had any more faithful and truer servants than they were.
Mr. Ward was glad to find that there were still many of his people on the plantation, all of whom seemed glad to see him. Old Aunt Binah, Uncle Joe's wife was dead, and his two boys, now strapping young fellows had gone to the city to work. "Long shore" the old man informed him, also that they had turned out well and came up to see him often.
As they neared the cabin they passed a pen in which were six fine shoats "Dem b'long to Mingo, sah," said Uncle Joe.
A shade passed over Mr. Ward's face. "Mingo?" he asked.
"Yessah. Mingo mar'ed Dolly, yo kno sah, an ee com ter lib yer wid er. And den wen they gon ter town an my old ooman dead, Dolly un him com lib wid me sah, caise I so lonsum. Mingo is er good christon man sah, an dey berry kine ter me."
The shade on Mr. Ward's face deepened. "Joe," said he, "I treated Mingo harshly once."
"I kno dat, but ee don forgit all bout it, sah."
Mr. Ward sighed as though he wished he could forget also. "Is Lucy still here?" he asked.
"Yee, sah. She es prime es eber."
"Let us go over and see her."
"Praise de Lawd!" cried the old woman as they entered her cabin. Mr. Ward could not speak, but extended his hand.
"Mas Willum, I'se berry glad ter see yer. Si' down. How yer bin all dis time?"
"Well, Ma'am Lucy, I have had some hard raps, but I am thankful to be alive, and to see you all again. A great change has come about."
"Yee sah, God mov een er misterous way."
After a short stay at Aunt Lucy's they visited the other cabins before returning to Uncle Joe's abode. "Sorry de ole ooman ain't here yere, sah," said the old man with moistened eyes, as they went in. Dolly, busy with the housework, had noticed Uncle Joe and a white man going to the barn with a horse. They had left the horse there and were next seen
coming toward the cabin. With native shyness she drew herself from view, and when she ventured to peep out again, the man had passed her house going in the direction of Aunt Lucy's. "Vonder who dat," she had said, and went on with her work.
Meanwhile Mr. Ward and Uncle Joe had completed their visits and returned. She did not see them until they entered the rear door of the cabin. She was just about to put a large dish into the cupboard when she glanced up. . . . Down went the dish to the floor in a hundred pieces!!! "Don't be frightened, Dolly," said Mr. Ward, smiling and extending his hand. "You got your Mingo after all."
Dolly was speechless for a moment. Then she said, "Ee this yo Mas Willum!"
"Yes indeed," replied the gentleman, "and I am truly glad to see you. How are you and your husband?"
"Ve quite well, tankee sah. How yo do?"
"Oh, I feel better now, than I have for many a day," he replied.
The men sat down before the blazing fire and entered into a long earnest conversation concerning
the past, the present and the future. Just before they entered the door, Mr. Ward had noticed a fine possum hanging outside, all cleaned and ready for the oven. He was at the point of expressing his delight at the sight when he was arrested by the pathetic remarks of Uncle Joe. During a lull in the conversation he turned to Dolly and said, "I see you have a fine possum."
"Yees sah," she answered, "Mingo ketch him las night, and we gwine ter hab im for supper. Glad yo cum jest een time."
"I am glad too," said Mr. Ward laughingly.
Mingo worked at the ferry half a mile away. He was later than usual coming home that evening, and had reached the house without being apprised of Mr. Ward's arrival. When he came in and saw the gentleman, he stood motionless with astonishment. Mr. Ward got up. Advancing toward the bewildered man with outstretched hand he said, "Mingo, I treated you harshly once. I am ashamed of it, and I wish to ask your pardon."
Mingo grasped his hand. "Doan say nothin bout dat, sah. Ise glad ter see yo--berry glad ter see yo sah. Si down." And the two men had a long talk.
"Tun dat possum roun and roun
Tun dat possum roun."
DOLLY knew the high estimate Mr. Ward had of old Aunt Lucy's ability as a cook, therefore she requested her to come over that evening. This the old lady readily consented to do, and as she proceeded with her pleasant task, she indulged in many reminiscences of former occasions on which she had officiated to the gastronomic delight of Mr. Ward; and even of old Mr. Bale, Mrs. Ward's father. When everything was ready Dolly brought out a snowy cloth, spread it on the pine table, laid a plate, knife and fork thereon, then she ran down to the spring for some fresh water. Returning, she placed a glass of this beside the plate. Meanwhile Aunt Lucy was taking up the summer. On a large dish she gently placed the festive possum done to a turn. Then she carefully arranged some baked sweet potatoes around it. Over all she poured some gravy
that had been simmering in a saucepan by the fire. She placed this dish in front of the plate on the table, and flanked it on one side by a dish of rice as white as milk, and on the other by some delicious cornbread. She surveyed the table a moment then announced, "Supper ready."
"Draw up, sah," said Mingo acting as master of ceremonies.
"Surely you are all going to join me!" said Mr. Ward rising.
"No sah," answered Uncle Joe, "It do ve mo good ter see yo eat dan ter eat vesef, sah."
Argument was of no avail, therefore Mr. Ward sat down and in a remarkably short space of time that dish of possum and potatoes had very perceptively diminished. After Mr. Ward was through, the table was rearranged and the others sat down.
The gentleman looked thoughtfully into the fire, and when all had finished he stood up. "Joe, Lucy, Mingo, Dolly," said he, calling each by name, "I can never hope to enjoy another meal such as I have
had, as long as I live. His earnestness impressed them all. They made no reply.
Immediately after supper Mingo had excused himself, and was absent for more than an hour. All of those whom Mr. Ward had not seen during the day came in after supper to shake hands with him. Mingo was seen to whisper to two or three of the younger men, and together they went out; seemingly on some mysterious errand.
Some of the older people tarried a while to talk. "Chillun," said Aunt Lucy, "Look at de vonders ob de Master." Then she raised her voice and sang, "And are we yet alive?"
Uncle Joe requested the old woman to pray. They all knelt down while she uttered a prayer of wonderful strength; full of faith and hope. Mr. Ward was asked by the old man to read the 14th chapter of St. John. Uncle Joe, though still vigorous, was quite an old man; therefore, at the conclusion of the reading he sang:--
"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wistful eye."
They all felt that he was looking, "For a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens." And so he was, for a few months later he passed to his reward.
They had all joined in the singing, and accustomed as was Mr. Ward to hearing them, it seemed as though he was never so impressed as now. Again and again he requested them to sing, and they responded with such old hymns as:--
"Roll Jordan, roll
My bruder, yo aught to bin dere
To yer wen Jordan roll."
When they rose to leave they sang heartily:--
"No fearin, no doubtin
While God's on our side.
We'll all die er shoutin'
De Lawd will provide."
Kind reader have you ever heard those people
sing? If a band of these old veterans could be brought together and travel through the country singing their old time songs, I believe it would do more towards settling the so called Negro problem, and allaying the growing unrest caused thereby, than any other single force. The particular ones of whom I write are all, with a single exception, dead; but there are still many of the "Old Timers" living.
Mr. Ward had not expected to stay so long, but the hours sped swiftly, and he was forced to spend the night under the roof of old Uncle Joe. Mr. Mingo went to work early the next morning before Mr. Ward was up.
The borrowed horse had been returned by one of the men going to the station, as the gentleman found his stay would be prolonged. Uncle Joe would drive him over to take the train.
After breakfast Uncle Joe went to the barn to "hitch up." When he drove up to the cabin door there was a large homespun sack which seemed to
contain something bulky, lying across the rear part of the buggy. "Got quite a load behind you, Joe," remarked Mr. Ward as he stepped in.
"One ob Mingo shoats, sah. Ee kill im las night. Say ee sory ee didn't hab time to cut up de meat. Yo kin hab dat don wen yo git home. Hang im up in er cool space, sah."
The gentleman made no reply, but there was a strange, far away look in his eyes. As they drove, the old man imparted such bits of information as he thought might be of interest. Finally both became silent. "Joe," at length said Mr. Ward, "You are thoughtful as usual."
"Fine nuff ter tink bout, sah. Member once wen I didn't tink, an ee put de wuk on de plantation bac two days. He laughed loudly as though amused by some recollection. Mr. Ward smilingly asked when this happening had occurred. Then the old man related the circumstances which were as follows:--
Mr. Ward had directed him to have a piece of work done. He had delayed in doing it because there was something about it to which he wished to
call his master's attention. However, before he could do so Mr. Ward called him and demanded to know what was the cause of the delay. "I thought sah," began Uncle Joe. "I don't want you to think. Do as I tell you," Mr. Ward had said sternly.
Later the old man's reasons were discovered to be well founded, but his master made no acknowledgment of it. One morning some time after Mr. Ward had said, "Joe, tomorrow morning early, take two double teams and four men, and go over to Mr. Bennett Ward's (a brother of his). There are some things there; furniture, etc., that I wish to have brought here. Make a very early start. I will ride over after you. Wait there until I come."
Now it so happened that on this very day, after Mr. Ward had given his instructions, he received a letter calling him to the city on urgent business. He went down that evening. Naturally he said nothing to Uncle Joe, nor did he change his orders. The old man knew he was gone, also that it was impossible for him to return in time to ride over to his
brother's, as it was eight miles across the country. But he was not to think!
By daylight next morning, he with teams and men, was on the road to "Mas' Bennett." On his arrival he told the gentleman the orders he had received from his master. "All right," said he, "Wait." And they waited.
At dinner time Mr. Ward expressed surprise that his brother had not come. At night he felt worried about it. "If he is not here in the morning I shall ride over and see what the matter is," he said.
The next day, when breakfast had been completed, he mounted his horse and rode away, telling Joe to remain there as his brother might come at any moment. He had expected to meet Mr. William on the way, but after riding several miles without doing so, he became quite alarmed and went on to Pine Top. His brother he found, had been called to the city unexpectedly, and had not returned as yet. Mrs. Ward knew that her husband intended to send Joe, but thought he had altered the arrangement when he
found that he would be absent. She was just on the verge of sending for Joe to come back.
It was near three o'clock when Mr. Ward got home. His brother was in the act of leaving. "I did tell Joe to go over to your place yesterday, and to wait until I came. I forgot all about it until a few moments ago. When you get home, please see that the wagons are loaded tonight, and let them start back by daylight," said Mr. William Ward.
Not until nine o'clock in the morning of the third day of their absence did they return to Pine Top. Work had been terribly put back on the place. But, Uncle Joe had done as he was told, without thinking.
Mr. Ward remembered facts distinctly. He now learned for the first time the true inwardness of them. "Joe," said he with a smile, "That was not the only mistake I ever made."
They bade each other good-bye at the station. "Remain on the plantation, Joe, and tell all the
others to do so until we see what is to be done," said Mr. Ward as he boarded the train. They never met again!
Mr. Ward entered the ministry and labored for some years on the coast among his own people, in the vicinity where he once had his military headquarters. Was the inspiration furnished by that memorable visit to the old plantation? Who can tell?
"Universal Suffrage say to all, Be ye tranquil."
RECONSTRUCTION times were now at hand. The ruinous conditions that followed that period have been oft and repeatedly charged to the Negroes of South Carolina. Is this just? Is it true? I say, No! I was but a boy then. I remember going with my father who was one of a delegation of men selected for the purpose of calling on some gentlemen of Charleston. These gentlemen, although they had been slaveholders, were always kindly disposed
toward the Negro. I understood the purpose of the visits was to secure the good offices of these gentlemen in framing new laws for the government of the state.
The first one they called on came out and stood uncovered on the doorsteps, while the spokesmen of the Negroes explained the object of the visit. The venerable gentleman thanked the delegates for this expression of their confidence, and promised to do all in his power to bring about peace and tranquillity to the state and people.
They made other visits with like results. "Bless be the man who ne'er consents by ill advice to walk," is as applicable to a state or community as to an individual. Ill advice seemed to have ruled the first attempt at legislation in South Carolina after the war; for the outcome of it was the enactment of a code of laws which rendered the condition of the Negroes in the state worse if possible, than it was under slavery. These laws were very appropriately called, "The Black Code." It is strange that we do not hear much of that code now. Possibly somebody
is ashamed of it.
That was the entering wedge. It opened the door to the designing stranger, and made subsequent conditions possible. It was not the work of Negroes, but it opened the way for, and brought about, what is called the "Carpet Bag" era, of which nothing good can be said. It was "Bad," very "Bad."
But the state was finally wrested from the hands of the despoiler. The gallant Hampton came to the rescue. About this time men who had found things under the corrupt Carpet Bag System, "as sweet as a daisy in a cow's mouth," awoke to the discovery that the "Civilization of the Cavalier and the Roundhead was imperiled." That discovery it was said, was hastened by the thought that their own heads were no less so. In fact, in Charleston today, a highly respected gentleman and citizen is living, who in a public speech said in effect, "Let us not blame the Negroes; they have been but dupes. Let us rather ornament the lamp posts of the city with the suspended bodies of the rascals who have used them for their own selfish purposes."
At that time I was a young man in the employment of one of the oldest business firms in Charleston. One day one of my employers called me into his private office. (This gentleman was one of the most conscientious men I have ever known. He had been very kind to me, as indeed were all the members of the firm. In all my varied experiences I have never met with kinder treatment than I received at their hands). After telling me of the deplorable condition in which the state then was, he asked me to support General Wade Hampton for governor, in the coming election. I told him that while I realized the truth of what he had said, I could not vote for Hampton! Also, that in consequence of the chaotic conditions in the state I had determined not to vote at all. He then asked me if I would go to hear General Hampton, (the general was to speak especially to the Negroes of Charleston). This I readily consented to do.
I do not remember the date of this meeting. It was however, a short time before the election which took place on the seventh day of November, 1876.
At the appointed time the Academy of Music was crowded with the Negroes of the city. I could only get standing room. We, the Negroes, could sit in any part of the place we desired then.
General Wade Hampton rose to speak--a splendid man, a perfect specimen of manhood and vigor. The hardships of the war through which he had passed seemed to have had but little effect upon him. He was a fluent speaker. In a forceful manner he told of the sad condition in which the affairs of the state then stood. Our only desire he said, was to save our dear old state from utter ruin. Then, raising his right hand to heaven he said these very words as near as I can recollect, "If I am elected governor, I swear to God that not one right or privilege that you now enjoy shall be taken from you!"
I believe, in fact I know he was sincere, and while I did not vote for him I honored his sincerity. But he had made pledges for his people which they failed to keep. The immediate result of his election was the passing of restrictive measures aimed exclusively
at the Negro. The brave old general lived to see the day when he, like his pledges, was laid aside--a soldier and a gentleman. It was well for him that he was bred in the school of the soldier; well for him that he was truly brave, else he could not have stood up against it.
"He was a man take him in all for all"
and I fear, we in South Carolina,
"May not look upon his like again."
But the end is not yet, for we hear of other oppressive measures, such as disfranchisement and the like. While this is true it is equally true that the Negro has many friends among the southern white people. Such offensive measures as the "Jim Crow Car," are not the works of the better element of the southern people. Many Negroes owe their success in business enterprises and other efforts they have put forward for their advancement, directly to the aid and encouragement they have received from those who formerly held them in bondage.
If there is a Negro problem before the American people, it is one of the greatest propositions that has ever confronted them. If either of the measures
yet proposed could be carried out it would not settle the Negro question, for I hear of no plan as yet to remove the Negro from the face of the earth. Though, perhaps even this would find many advocates. If there is a Negro problem, a great principle is involved in its settlement. There is no question of the power of the white people of America to dispose of it in any way they may choose, but, to "settle it," requires the exercise of justice and equity.
To many this problem seems more imaginary than real, and the measures thus far proposed for its settlement seem impractical to say the least of them. One-sided settlements are hardly ever satisfactory or conclusive.
If there is a real vital question it affects the Negro as well as the white man, and the simple principles of humanity and "fair play" would seem to call for the consideration and the interest of both.
Why not call the brains of the Negro into the council for its consideration? There is plenty of it among the men of large calibre, many whose names
are frequently before the public, and others whose names are seldom heard. I believe they would convince the country, and the world that this "Great Lion" is no formidable than those which "Pilgram" saw.
When a boy I knew a man whom I greatly disliked. I did not know anything wrong about him, but there was something about his looks that repulsed me. I never cared to meet him. Some time afterwards I learned something of his history. He had been shipwrecked once. Together with some others he got into a small boat. As they pulled off from the sinking vessel a strong swimmer reached the boat and tried to climb in. This man violently struck the hands of the swimmer away, and the poor fellow sank beneath the waves. He justified himself on the ground that there was already a sufficient number in the boat, and if the swimmer had not been prevented from entering the boat, the lives of these would have been endangered. Perhaps he was right, but I was more afraid of him than ever, for I could not think of him as other than a murderer.
Those who would drive the Negro away from this country for which he has fought and bled, I regard as worse than this man; for, we are all ready in the boat, and they seek to cast us into the sea.
" 'Tis a very good land I tell you,
'Tis a very fine land indeed."
FOR years I had desired to visit "away down east." I wanted to see more of those people from whom sprung the liberty-loving men and women, who did so much for the amelioration of the condition of the race. I had all ready witnessed the practical working of their christian charity, and the zeal through the labor of the gallant band, who
immediately after the war came down to the south with the bible in one hand, and the primer in the other; for the purpose of enlightening and elevating a benighted people.
They have nearly all passed away, for it is more than forty years since, but there remains as monuments to their philanthropy, the schools and colleges they established throughout the southland.
With the view therefore, of becoming better acquainted with these people, I availed myself of the first opportunity that presented itself. Before this I had visited some of their large cities, but the population of cities do not afford the opportunity of gaining such clear insight of a people as the country does. For, in the cities they are on "dress parade," but in the country they are "at home" so to speak, therefore, I wished to visit the rural or semi-rural parts of the country.
It is a "far cry" from the land of cotton and of rice to the land of pie and beans. Yet, within four days after leaving my home in South Carolina, I found myself among the hills and mountains of one of the eastern states, and I seemed to have landed
in the very heat of the "pie belt," as the following story will show.
Soon after my arrival I entered the services of a gentleman, and was assigned to duty at some distance from his residence. It was too far away for me to return to the house for dinner, so I was provided with an ample "dinner pail" which the cook arranged for me each morning before I left the house. The first day when I opened my pail at noon, I found some delicious bread and butter, a generous slice of cake, a piece of pie, and a bottle of rich milk. You may be sure I enjoyed this very much indeed. On the second day there were cake, bread, and pie, and on the third day pie, bread and cake.
Now, I had thought I was somewhat partial to pie, having been accustomed to an occasional bite of that delicacy at home, but this was "too much." There were more than a dozen men engaged at the place, and I discovered that each one of them was as abundantly supplied with pie as myself. At this
time there was a dear relative of mine engaged with the same family. She saw how things were going with me, and one night when I returned from work, she surprised me with a dish of rice and tomatoes cooked in southern style. It was a revelation to the cook to see rice served in this manner, but it must have been a far greater revelation to her to see how I devoured it. Soon my relative returned to her home in the south, and once more I found myself eating pie every day like a native.
The country was beautiful. It was in the famed Connecticut valley. The coloring of the landscape was all that could be desired, but there was a lamentable lack of color in the population. This, you must know, was utterly unbearable to any man from South Carolina, be he white or black, unless it be our senior senator. Therefore, I went to my employer and told him if the situation in this respect could not be changed, I could not remain in that part of the United States. "You see sir," said I, "I have a wife and ten children, and ----."
The gentleman leaped making a complete revolution
in the air. "Ten children!" he exclaimed, "Where? What in the world!"
Here he seemed to recover his equilibrium. He had four or five children himself. I then explained to him that it was not my purpose to bring all of our children to Spring Lake, that there were ten children in our family, but five of them were at home, while the other five were doing well for themselves in another part of the States; that it was my intention to have my wife bring the five that were at home as far as New York, leave four of them there, and she and the youngest join me at Spring Lake for the present. This arrangement suited him, and he promptly handed me a check covering the amount of their passage.
Before leaving home I had arranged with my life that if I found my situation satisfactory, I would send for her, and that the arrangement for the children indicated above, would be carried out. Consequently, it was with a light heart I wrote as follows:--
I enclose check for -- dollars. Come on
north. Leave Tom, Dick, Harry and Betsy Ann with G---- in New York, and you and Matilda Jane join me at Sorwind.
Your devoted husband."
But at the last moment our plans miscarried, and my wife found it necessary to bring all of the children with her.
The arrival of seven Afro-Americans created some excitement in the little town. I took my family to the Spring Lake Hotel and registered:--Mr. Sam Aleckson, wife and children, South Carolina. The next morning I explained the situation to my employer. He very readily, and with great kindness, placed at our disposal a neatly furnished cottage which he owned. How shall we ever thank the kind hearted Miss M---- who came personally to see that we were comfortably situated, and not in need of anything?
We began housekeeping under very favorable conditions. There was a large apple orchard around the house, and the children were as happy as larks. They had never before seen such an abundance of this delicious fruit. But our troubles were not yet
over, as will hereafter appear.
We were quite comfortably situated. I had forgotten all about "pie," and we had resumed our old bill-of-fare: hominy, meat, bread, and tea or coffee for breakfast; meat, rice, and some vegetable for dinner, and bread, butter and tea for supper. One day a kind neighbor stepped in to see my wife. "I have just finished baking," she said, "I have made eight pies, a big pan of doughnuts, some cookies, and a cake. What kind of pie did you have for dinner?"
"Well er, oh, we didn't have any pie today."
"Good land, Mrs. Aleckson! No pie? What do you give those children to eat? Why, why!"
When I got home I found my wife looking worried. "What's troubling you?" I asked.
"Pie," she replied. Then she told me about the visit.
Next day I determined to consult a friend. After telling him my story he looked at me incredulously. "Well, now hain't you been having at least two kinds of pie every day right straight along?" he asked.
"Well no. You see er--er, um--" I began.
"Gosh, man!" he interrupted, "If you were going to stay here you will have to do it."
"Don't you think I might compromise on er say, one every other day?" I asked helplessly.
"No siree! They might let you off on one each day, but I am not sure of that."
Again, kind friends came to the rescue on the next night. When we were about to retire, there was a loud rap on the door. Upon opening it I saw a large delegation of neighbors, headed by our good friend Mrs. B----. It was a surprise party, and they brought us material enough to make pies every day for two months!!!!
"Maud Miller on a Summer's Day."
I FOUND myself enjoying remarkable prosperity among a kind and hospitable people, who in industry, thrift and economy were unsurpassed.
Near our house there was a large meadow very suggestive of "Maud Miller" and the "Judge." The picture was heightened when I saw a buxom lass at work in the field. However, unlike Maud, she did not handle a rake. The raking is all done now by horse power. Instead she was provided with a fork which she wielded in "tumbling" with as much speed
and dexterity as any of the men engaged in the work. She might, too, have proven an acquisition to the household of a judge, as I learned that she was a teacher of the higher branches in a high grade school, and only took this method during vacation to develop health and muscle. I felt sure if she had any rude boys in her class they would get the full benefit of it during the next school term.
The superiority of New England for houses cleaning and housekeeping is well known. In house cleaning they excel. This they go about with absolute devotion. The spring house cleaning is scarcely over with when that of Fall begins. Indeed they seem to go about the house continually with hair broom and dustpan in hand. When any stray particle of dust is found, they swoop down upon it like a hawk does on a chicken, and bear it away in triumph to the furnace.
Ours is a great country; great in extent as well as in achievement. But, while many hundreds of miles may separate one community from another, still, through the means of the press and general literature
we can readily obtain intelligence of our most distant neighbors. It is remarkable though, notwithstanding these sources of information, how our opinions, formed from what we have read of those at a distance from us, are apt to be altered, or completely changed by actual contact. It is also surprising to what extent people speaking the same language, living under practically the same institutions, and forms of government, may differ in forms and customs. Here as elsewhere there are many peculiarities noticeable to the stranger.
Springlake is a historic old town. The public school system is perfect. This is a splendid public library which adds greatly to the educational advantages of the place. It boasts of several churches. All the people in Springlake go to church, but I found in traveling through the country, the same falling off in church attendance as is noticeable in other parts of the United States--especially among the men.
When I was a school boy, there was a picture in one of my books that represented a man and woman walking through the forest. The woman held a
book in her hand, while the man carried a gun; presumably a safeguard against attacks of wild breasts or savages. Indeed if I remember rightly, there did appear the figure of an Indian peeping stealthily from behind a tree. The picture bore the title, "Going to Church in New England." The date given was sometime in the early settlement of the country. There seemed to be deep snow on the ground.
The devotion evinced by people attending church under such unfavorable conditions attracted my wonder and admiration. This was, no doubt, a faithful representation of that period. But even in the Land of Puritans this good old custom of the fathers seems to be, "More honored in the breach then in the observance."
Somehow mankind seems to require the scourge and the lash. The great religious revival in the far north was preceded by a distressing famine in that country. The earthquake in California set on foot a movement for the abolition of the saloon system. While similar distresses in other parts of this country
have caused the "Lion and the Lamb" to lie down together, material prosperity seems to blind men's eyes, and they forget to "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
Strolling along one day I came upon a neat and substantial edifice. "What church is that?" I asked of an old man who lived nearby.
This ancient was more than eighty years of age. Obligingly he told me the name of the church. "You must have a large congregation."
"No, the number of persons who attended this church when I was young and occupied places reserved for the choir, alone outnumbered the entire congregation that meet here now for worship at irregular intervals," he answered sadly.
There was to be found however, many types of the "Village Preacher,"
"A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich on forty pounds a year."
for I fell sick, and such a person with his good wife drove six miles, through a snowstorm to bring me words of hope and consolation. In common with
those in other parts of our beautiful land, there are many who hope and pray for, and confidently look forward to a great religious revival. To that end let all join, at least reverently in spirit, in the old plantation hymn:--
"Gib me dat old time religion
For 'tis good een de time ob trouble,
'Tis good wen de doctah gib me ober
'Tis good enuf fer me."
It was summer when I arrived in Springlake, but as I remarked before, summer does not linger here. It was soon haying-time; a very busy season of the year. They had hardly gotten the last load from the meadow before the snow came! The snow seemed beautiful--nay, 'tis beautiful. To get the full effects of its beauty you should be in a nice warm room looking out at it through double panes of glass. For, if you have to shovel a half mile through snow three feet deep, you are apt, if you are not a very temperate man, to find yourself using strong and uncomplimentary terms in reference to the poets who sing of its loveliness.
It was my duty to shovel snow; I who had never seen snow more than two or three times in my life before, and at that only an inch or two thick. I had to run the furnace, too. This latter was more to my liking. One day I was sent on an errand during a snowstorm. My way lay down grade, but I went heedlessly on chanting gayly, "Where the snowflakes fall thickest, nothing can freeze."
I had begun to have some misgivings though, for while the flakes were falling thick and fast, I was already half frozen. Some minutes later I knew nothing at all, for down I went, striking my head against a rock. The little Eva of the household was playing out in the storm with the thermometer about twenty degrees below zero, just as happy as are South Carolinian children when they go out gathering jasmins in May. She ran to my assistance, helped me to rise, and led me back to the house. I was stunned and dazed.
When I regained consciousness they were bathing an ugly cut on my head, from which the blood
poured profusely. I had relied on Mr. Holmes. I knew he was a humorist, but I confess I had taken him seriously. It cost me about half a gallon of good warm southern blood to discover that he was only joking, for frequently under a very heavy covering of snow, there is a bed of ice as smooth as glass. This is put there by the intelligent New Englander to impart that glad movement to his sleigh, which is so entrancing when he goes out driving with his best girl.
One day when it was very slippery the laundress went out to the clothesline. She was in danger of falling. The chivalry of South Carolina was upon me. I rushed to her assistance, and down I went at her feet. I was in a splendid position to propose, but being already married I refrained. "Arise brave knight," said the lady, "They at the castle doth laugh at us."
My employer was an energetic man. He had built a house on a rock;--rather on the place where a rock used to be. "How are you ever going to build
a house on that rock?" he was once asked. Napoleon like--he answered, "There shall be no rock," and straightaway began blasting. The result was, a palatial mansion that towers above the surrounding houses, as the owner does above ordinary men in energy and determination. Such a man as he had no time to waste on a "tenderfoot" from South Carolina, therefore, "When the gentle springtime came" he told me I had better return to the sunny south; offering very kindly to arrange for my return passage. But, like the noble Frenchman, I said, "Here I am and here I stay." That is, I declined his offer with thanks.
"What are you going to do?" he asked.
"Work sir," I replied.
He looked at me with an incredulous smile. There was one however, whose kindness I shall never forget. One who had not altogether lost confidence in me, and through whose kind intercession I obtained another situation. By this time I had become "inoculated," and was able to give entire satisfaction
to my employers, who were also very kind gentlemen.
The little town of Springlake (you won't find it on a map, for it is hidden away between high mountains), is a most beautiful and a typical New England settlement. Nature has done wonders to beautify the place. Some one has said the Garden of Eden was in the United States. If it were not for the fact that the mercury frequently falls to forty degrees below zero, and that the summer passes like a "watch in the night," I would be inclined to believe that this is the place.
The people of Springlake--well, they are New England people; and that is all that need be said. The women are of course, better than the men, as is the case all over the world.
"Twix Twiddledum and Twiddledee."
In many parts of New England a very erroneous impression prevails regarding the attitude of the white people; I mean the white people of the south toward the Negro. The general idea seems to be that the average southern white man sallies forth every morning with a bowie knife between his teeth, and the first Negro he meets, proceeds to lay him
open in the back, broil him on a bed of hot coals and thus whet his appetite for breakfast. I found too, that this impression is largely the result of the thoughtless and altogether unnecessary talk of many southerners visiting the North, who seem to feel it encumbent on them to disavow the very friendly relations that exist between these two races in many parts of the South, by expressions of indifference, and intolerance, that in many instances are never manifested at home. The northerners do not understand that these expressions are only meant in a sort of "Pickwickian" sense; hence the error.
There is a northern family, a branch of which lives in Dixie, who, before the war were large owners of slaves. Some years after the war, a member of the southern branch visited relatives in the North. In answer to one of the children as to how their slaves had been treated he replied, "Oh we treated them about the same as we did our horses and mules."
Such expressions do no possible good, and are frequently productive of harm. As a matter of fact, the southern family was noted for the very humane manner in which they treated their slaves, and some of those servants as well as the descendents of others, are in the service of the family at this very day.
Again the little girl who had asked this question was asked by one of the servants, how she liked her southern relative. "Not one bit," she replied, "I can never like any one who speaks of treating people like cattle."
"My father once shot ten of his slaves. Yes sir, shot them down in their tracks because he thought they were planning to run away!" and the young "Munchausen" from the South, looked around with an air of superiority on the Yankee youths to whom he was speaking.
Somehow the impression has gotten abroad that the ordinary form used by the southern white people
in addressing a Negro is "nigger." Now, it is well known that this term is never used by the better class, for, "Though I be a native here and to the manner born," I can truthfully say I have never, in a lifetime of fifty years, once had the term applied to me personality; and curiously enough, the only time I ever was offended by it happened in the North. (This of course, was not at Springlake). At this time I was employed at a large store in the country town. One day a farmer came into the store. Now when I was a little boy a kind lady school teacher from New England had given me a little book that contained the picture of the Yankee Overseer on a southern plantation, "Who down in the South became whipper of slaves." Upon seeking this farmer I thought that picture must have been taken from life, for he bore such a remarkable likeness to it.
"Whar's your nigger?" he asked, speaking to one of the clerks, "I got some pertaters I want him to help unload."
I had a good place, but I made up my mind that before I gave him any assistance, I would throw up the job. Therefore I went on with my work, and he got his load off without any help from me.
The term "nigger" is a much controverted one. There is not the slightest doubt that it is offensive to all intelligent, self-respecting Negroes, and is never used by them. This term like any other, without regard to their significance or lack of significance, becomes offensive when applied in derision. And, as has been the case with many other terms, thus applied will lose its offensiveness in proportion, as the object it shall secure the respect of those by whom it is applied.
I can not tell of all I saw and of all I learned in New England: of industry, of economy, of thrift, of wealth, of charity. It is a goodly land, and yet,
"I love the land where the cotton plant grows,
The land where there is no ice.
I love the land where the jasmine blows
I love the land of rice."
Both north and south, ours is a great land, and we are justly proud of it. I say "we" and "ours" for I know not what else to say. When I am in the South I feel at home, and as I gaze on the high hills and lofty mountains of New England, I feel as ready to sing, "My country 'tis of thee--" as any man in America, for notwithstanding the untoward conditions surrounding my people in many parts of this land, the heart of the Negro is loyal.
"Send him away," say some. "God forbid it!" say I. But, if that sad day should ever come, let the Negro fold his arms. The great fear is that this people are looking in one direction while going in another. The danger is that they may run against a wall.
The financial, the labor, the agricultural, and even the "servant girl" problems have been discussed pro and con very thoroughly. This is one problem, however, that does not seem to receive the attention its gravity demands.
Divorces have reached an alarming proportion in some parts of the United States. It is noteworthy that they so frequently occur where the sexes appear to possess in even measures, those qualities that would seem to make them of mutual assistance to each other, and where similar educational advantages should render them mutually agreeable.
The separations too, are often sought on grounds which look ridiculously inadequate. For instance; Because breakfast was not ready promptly at fifty-seven minutes after six o'clock, on the one side, or some equally grave offense on the other side. Were I called upon to say what, in my judgement, are the strongest forces at work to undermind the foundation of this great Republic, I should name, lynching and divorce.
I for one, have no fear for the ultimate fate of the Negro. My fears are for the American nation, for, I feel as an American, and cannot feel otherwise.