Monthly Archives: June 2015

Georgia Plantation Slave Food Rations

Georgia Plantation Slave Food Rations

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their food rations as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Potlicker and cornbread was fed to us chillun, out of big old wooden
bowls. Two or three chillun et out of de same bowl. Grown folks had
meat, greens, syrup, cornbread, ‘taters and de lak. ‘Possums! I should
say so. Dey cotch plenty of ’em and atter dey was kilt ma would scald
’em and rub ’em in hot ashes and dat clean’t ’em jus’ as pretty and
white. OO-o-o but dey was good. Lord, Yessum! Dey used to go fishin’ and
rabbit huntin’ too. Us jus’ fotched in game galore den, for it was de
style dem days. Dere warn’t no market meat in slavery days. Seemed lak
to me in dem days dat ash-roasted ‘taters and groundpeas was de best
somepin t’eat what anybody could want. ‘Course dey had a gyarden, and it
had somepin of jus’ about evvything what us knowed anything ’bout in de
way of gyarden sass growin’ in it. All de cookin’ was done in dem big
old open fireplaces what was fixed up special for de pots and ovens.
Ashcake was most as good as ‘taters cooked in de ashes, but not quite.

Dey used to skeer us
out ’bout red ‘taters. Dey was fine ‘taters, red on de outside and
pretty and white on de inside, but white folks called ’em
‘nigger-killers.’ Dat was one of deir tricks to keep us from stealin’
dem ‘taters. Dere wern’t nothin’ wrong wid dem ‘taters; dey was jus’ as
good and healthy as any other ‘taters. Aunt Lucy, she was de cook, and
she told me dat slaves was skeered of dem ‘nigger-killer’ ‘taters and
never bothered ’em much den lak dey does de yam patches dese days.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“Slaves were required to prepare their own meals three times a day. This
was done in a big open fire place which was filled with hot coals. The
master did not give them much of a variety of food, but allowed each
family to raise their own vegetables. Each family was given a hand out
of bacon and meal on Saturdays and through the week corn ash cakes and
meat; which had been broiled on the hot coals was the usual diet found
in each home. The diet did not vary even at Christmas only a little
fruit was added.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“Oh, yessum! Marse Alec, had plenty for his slaves to eat. Dere was
meat, bread, collard greens, snap beans, ‘taters, peas, all sorts of
dried fruit, and just lots of milk and butter. Marse Alec had 12 cows
and dat’s whar I learned to love milk so good. De same Uncle Jim what
made our beds made our wooden bowls what dey kept filled wid bread and
milk for de chillun all day. You might want to call dat place whar Marse
Alec had our veg’tables raised a gyarden, but it looked more lak a big
field to me, it was so big. You jus’ ought to have seed dat dere
fireplace whar dey cooked all us had to eat. It was one sho ‘nough big
somepin, all full of pots, skillets, and ovens. Dey warn’t never ‘lowed
to git full of smut neither. Dey had to be cleant and shined up atter
evvy meal, and dey sho was pretty hangin’ dar in dat big old fireplace.

“George and Mack was de hunters. When dey went huntin’ dey brought back
jus’ evvything: possums, rabbits, coons, squirrels, birds, and wild
turkeys. Yessum, wild turkeys is some sort of birds I reckon, but when
us talked about birds to eat us meant part’idges. Some folkses calls ’em
quails. De fishes us had in summertime was a sight to see. Us sho et
good dem days. Now us jus’ eats what-some-ever us can git.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Jus’ a few of de slave famblies was ‘lowed to do deir own cookin’
’cause Marster kept cooks up at de big house what never had nothin’ else
to do but cook for de white folks and slaves. De big old fireplace in
dat kitchen at de big house was more dan eight feet wide and you could
pile whole sticks of cord-wood on it. It had racks acrost to hang de
pots on and big ovens and little ovens and big, thick, iron fryin’ pans
wid long handles and hefty iron lids. Dey could cook for a hunderd
people at one time in dat big old kitchen easy. At one time dere was
tables acrost one end of de kitchen for de slaves t’eat at, and de slave
chillun et dar too.

“Us never could eat all de meat in Marster’s big old smokehouse.
Sometimes he tuk hams to de store and traded ’em for sugar and coffee.
Plenty of ‘bacco was raised on dat plantation for all de white folks and
de growed-up Niggers. Slave chillun warn’t sposen to have none, so us
had to swipe what ‘bacco us got. If our Mammies found out ’bout us
gittin’ ‘bacco, dey stropped us ’til de skin was most off our backs, but
sometimes us got away wid a little. If us seed any of de old folks was
watchin’ us, us slipped de ‘bacco from one to another of us whilst dey
s’arched us, and it went mighty bad on us if dey found it.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“In the same manner that clothing was sufficient, so was food plentiful.
At the end of each week each family was given 4 lbs. of meat, 1 peck of
meal, and some syrup. Each person in a family was allowed to raise a
garden and so they had vegetables whenever they wished to. In addition
to this they were allowed to raise chickens, to hunt and to fish.
However, none of the food that was secured in any of the ways mentioned
above could be sold. When anyone wished to hunt, Mr. Coxton supplied the
gun and the shot.

Although the slaves cooked for themselves, their breakfast and dinner
were usually sent to them in the fields after it had been prepared in
the cook house. The reason for this was that they had to get up too soon
in the morning, and at noon too much time would be lost if they were
permitted to go to their cabins for lunch.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“Rias was a great hand to go seining with a certain clique of white boys,
who always gave him a generous or better than equal share of the fish
caught.

As for food, the slaves had, with the exception of “fancy trimmins”,
about the same food that the whites ate. No darky in Harris County that
he ever heard of ever went hungry or suffered for clothes until after
freedom.”

[Rias Body, Part I, Georgia]

“Maw, she went up to the big house onc’t a week to git the ‘lowance or
vittles. They ‘lowanced us a week’s rations at a time. Hit were
generally hog meat, corn meal and sometimes a little flour. Maw, she
done our cookin’ on the coals in the fireplace at our cabin. We had
plenty of ‘possums and rabbits and fishes and sometimes we had wild
tukkeys and partidges. Slaves warn’t spozen to go huntin’ at night and
everybody know you can’t ketch no ‘possums ‘ceppin’ at night! Jus’ the
same, we had plenty ‘possums and nobody ax how we cotch ’em!” James
laughed and nodded. “Now, ’bout them rabbits! Slaves warn’t ‘lowed to
have no guns and no dogs of they own. All the dogs on our plantation
belonged to my employer–I means, to my marster, and he ‘lowed us to use
his dogs to run down the rabbits. Nigger mens and boys ‘ud go in crowds,
sometimes as many as twelve at one time, and a rabbit ain’t got no
chance ‘ginst a lot of niggers and dogs when they light out for to run
‘im down!

“What wild critters we wanted to eat and couldn’t run down, we was right
smart ’bout ketchin’ in traps. We cotch lots of wild tukkeys and
partidges in traps and nets. Long Crick runned through our plantation
and the river warn’t no fur piece off. We sho’ did ketch the fishes,
mostly cats, and perch and heaps and heaps of suckers. We cotch our
fishes mos’n generally with hook and line, but the carpenters on our
plantation knowed how to make basket traps that sho’ nuff did lay in
the fishes! God only knows how long it’s been since this old nigger
pulled a big shad out of the river. Ain’t no shads been cotch in the
river round here in so long I disremembers when!

“We didn’ have no gardens of our own round our cabins. My employer–I
means, my marster–had one big gyarden for our whole plantation and all
his niggers had to work in it whensomever he wanted ’em to, then he give
’em all plenty good gyarden sass for theyselfs. They was collards and
cabbage and turnips and beets and english peas and beans and onions, and
they was allus some garlic for ailments. Garlic was mostly to cure wums
(worms). They roasted the garlic in the hot ashes and squez the juice
outen it and made the chilluns take it. Sometimes they made poultices
outen garlic for the pneumony.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“Us et cornbread, sweet ‘tatoes, peas, home-made syrup an’ sich lak. De
meat wuz fried sometimes, but mos’ of de time it wuz biled wid de
greens. All de somethin’ t’eat wuz cooked in de fireplace. Dey didn’t
know what stoves wuz in dem days. Yes Ma’am, us went ‘possum huntin’ at
night, an’ us had plenty ‘possums too. Dey put sweet ‘tatoes an’ fat
meat roun’ ’em, an’ baked ’em in a oven what had eyes on each side of it
to put hooks in to take it off de fire wid.

“No Ma’am, us didn’t go fishin’, or rabbit huntin’ nuther. Us had to wuk
an’ warn’t no Nigger ‘lowed to do no frolickin’ lak dat in daytime. De
white folkses done all de fishin’ an’ daytime huntin’. I don’t ‘member
lakin’ no sartin’ somethin’. I wuz jus’ too glad to git anythin’. Slaves
didn’t have no gyardens of dey own. Old Marster had one big gyarden what
all de slaves et out of.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia]

“Refrigeration was practically unknown, so a well was used to keep the
butter fresh. This cool well was eighty feet deep and passed through a
layer of solid rock. A rope ladder was suspended from the mouth of the
well to the place where the butter was lowered for preservation. For
safety, and to shield it from the sun, reeds were planted all around the
well. And as they grew very tall, a stranger would not suspect a well
being there.

Food was distributed on Monday night, and for each adult slave the
following staple products were allowed–

Weekly ration: On Sunday:
3-1/2 lbs. meat One qt. syrup
1 pk. of meal One gal. flour
1 gal. shorts One cup lard

Vegetables, milk, etc., could be obtained at the “big house”, but fresh
meat and chickens were never given. The desire for these delicacies
often overcame the slaves’ better natures, and some frequently went
night foraging for small shoats and chickens.

One of Della’s grandmother’s favorite recipes was made of dried beef and
wheat. The wheat was brought from the field and husked by hand. This,
added to the rapidly boiling beef, was cooked until a mush resulted,
which was then eaten from wooden bowls with spoons of the same material.
White plates were never used by the slaves.”

[Della Briscoe, Part I, Georgia]

“What did us have to eat? Lordy mussy! Mist’ess! us had everything.
Summertime dere wuz beans, cabbage, squashes, irish ‘tatoes, roas’en
ears, ‘matoes, cucumbers, cornbread, and fat meat, but de Nigger boys,
dey wuz plum fools ’bout hog head. In winter dey et sweet ‘tatoes,
collards, turnips and sich, but I et lak de white folkses. I sho does
lak ‘possums and rabbits. Yessum, some of de slaves had gyardens, some
of ’em sholy did.”

[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“We didn’t have stoves plentiful then: just ovens we set in the
fireplace. Ah’s toted a many a armful of bark–good ole hickory bark to
cook with. We’d cook light bread–both flour and corn. The yeast fur
this bread wuz made frum hops. Coals of fire wuz put on top of the oven
and under the bottom, too. Everything wuz cooked on coals frum a wood
fire–coffee and all. Wait, let me show you my coffee tribet. Have you
ever seen one? Well, Ah’ll show you mine.” Aunt Sally got up and hobbled
to the kitchen to get the trivet. After a few moments search she came
back into the room.

“No, it’s not there. Ah guess it’s been put in the basement. Ah’ll show
it to you when you come back. It’s a rack made of iron that the pot is
set on befo’ puttin’ it on the fire coals. The victuals wuz good in them
days; we got our vegetables out’n the garden in season and didn’t have
all the hot-house vegetables. Ah don’t eat many vegetables now unless
they come out’n the garden and I know it. Well, as I said, there wuz
racks fitted in the fireplace to put pots on. Once there wuz a big pot
settin’ on the fire, jest bilin’ away with a big roast in it. As the
water biled, the meat turned over and over, comin’ up to the top and
goin’ down again, Ole Sandy, the dog, come in the kitchen. He sot there
a while and watched that meat roll over and over in the pot, and all of
a sudden-like he grabbed at that meat and pulls it out’n the pot.
‘Course he couldn’t eat it ’cause it wuz hot and they got the meat befo’
he et it. The kitchen wuz away frum the big house, so the victuals wuz
cooked and carried up to the house. Ah’d carry it up mahse’f. We
couldn’t eat all the different kinds of victuals the white folks et and
one mornin’ when I was carryin’ the breakfast to the big house we had
waffles that wuz a pretty golden brown and pipin’ hot. They wuz a
picture to look at and ah jest couldn’t keep frum takin’ one, and that
wuz the hardest waffle fur me to eat befo’ I got to the big house I ever
saw. Ah jest couldn’t git rid of that waffle ’cause my conscience
whipped me so.”

[Julia Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“Dere was allus plenty t’eat ’cause Marster had a 2-acre gyarden and a
big fruit orchard. Two cooks was in de kitchen all de time. Dey cooked
in a big fireplace, but us had big ovens to cook de meat, biscuits and
lightbread in. Us made ‘lasses and syrup and put up fruits just lak dey
does now.”

[Julia Bunch, Part I, Georgia]

“The Willis family as kind and religious and saw to it that their slaves
were given plenty of food to eat. Every Monday night each family was
given its share of food for the week. Each grown person was given a peck
of corn [TR: meal on original page] and three pounds of meat; besides
the vegetables, etc. On Tuesday morning each family was given an ample
amount of real flour for biscuits.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“Us had evvything good to eat. Marse Thomas was a rich man and fed ‘is
Niggers well. Dey cooked in a big open fireplace and biled greens and
some of de udder vittals in a great big pot what swung on a rack. Meat,
fish and chickens was fried in a griddle iron what was sot on a flat
topped trivet wid slits to let de fire thoo. Dey called it a trivet
’cause it sot on three legs and hot coals was raked up under it. Hoe
cakes made out of cornmeal and wheat flour sho’ was good cooked on dat
griddle. ‘Tatoes was roasted in de ashes, and dey cooked bread what dey
called ash cake in de ashes. Pound cake, fruit cake, light bread and
biscuits was baked in a great big round pot, only dey warn’t as deep as
de pots dey biled in; dese was called ovens. Makes me hongry to think
’bout all dem good vittals now.

“Oh! Yes Ma’am, us had plenty ‘possums. Pappy used to cotch so many
sometimes he jest put ’em in a box and let us eat ’em when us got ready.
‘Possums tasted better atter dey was put up in a box and fattened a
while. Us didn’t have many rabbits; dey warn’t as much in style den as
dey is now, and de style of eatin’ ‘possums lak dey done in slav’ry
times, dat is ’bout over. Dey eats ’em some yet, but it ain’t stylish no
mo’. Us chillun used to go fishin’ in Moore’s Branch; one would stand on
one side of de branch wid a stick, and one on de udder side would roust
de fishes out. When dey come to de top and jump up, us would hit ’em on
de head, and de grown folks would cook ’em. Dere warn’t but one gyarden,
but dat had plenty in it for evvybody.”

[Susan Castle, Part I, Georgia]

“A day of rest was given the slaves about once
every three months in addition to the regular holidays which are
observed today. On holidays, “frolics” at which square dances were the
chief form of entertainment (by the music of a banjo or fiddle) were
enjoyed. Ring games were played by the children. The refreshments
usually consisted of ash cakes and barbecue. The ash cake was made by
wrapping corn pones in oak leaves and burying the whole in hot ashes.
When the leaves dried, the cake was usually done and was carefully moved
to prevent its becoming soiled. [HW: A] skillful cook could produce
cakes that were a golden brown and not at all ashy.

Food was provided by the owners and all families cooked for themselves
whether they were many or one. The weekly allotments of meal, meat,
etc., were supplemented through the use of vegetables which could always
be obtained from the fields. On special days chicken or beef was given
and each one had a sufficient amount for his needs. Hunting and fishing
were recreations in which the slaves were not allowed to participate
although they frequently went on secret excursions of this nature. All
food stuff as well as cloth for garments was produced at home.”

[Berry Clay, Part I, Georgia]

“Several cooks were regularly maintained. Some cooked for the men who had
no families, others for the members of the big house and guests. The
menus varied little from day to day. A diet of bread–called “shortening
bread,”–vegetables and smoked meat were usually consumed. Buttermilk
was always plentiful. On Sundays “seconds” (flour) were added to the
list and butter accompanied this. Chickens, fresh meat, etc., were
holiday items and were seldom enjoyed at any other time.

Not only were the slaves required to work but the young men of the “big
house” also had their duties. In the summer they went fishing. While
this sport was enjoyed, it was done on an extremely large scale in order
that everyone should have an adequate supply of fish. The streams
abounded in all kinds of fish, and nets were used to obtain large
quantities necessary. In winter hunting was engaged in for this same
purpose. Rabbits, squirrels, etc., were the usual game, but in addition
the trapping of wild hogs was frequently indulged in. The woods
contained many of these animals which were exceptionally vicious. The
hunters, however, trapped them in much the same way that rabbits are now
caught, without injury to the flesh [TR: ‘making the meat more
delicious’ marked out]. Deer were also plentiful and venison enjoyed
during its season. Horned snakes were the greatest impediments to more
abundant hunting.”

[Pierce Cody, Part I, Georgia]

“Dere warn’t no
sto’-bought stoves den, and all our cookin’ wuz done in de fireplace.
Pots wuz hung on iron cranes to bile and big pones of light bread wuz
cooked in ovens on de hearth. Dat light bread and de biscuits made out
of shorts wuz our Sunday bread and dey sho’ wuz good, wid our home-made
butter. Us had good old corn bread for our evvyday bread, and dere ain’t
nothin’ lak corn bread and buttermilk to make healthy Niggers. Dere
wouldn’t be so many old sick Niggers now if dey et corn bread evvyday
and let all dis wheat bread and sto’-bought, ready-made bread alone
‘cept on Sunday.

“Dere wuz four or five acres in Marster’s big old gyarden, but den it
tuk a big place to raise enough for all de slaves and white folkses too
in de same gyarden. Dere wuz jus’ de one gyarden wid plenty of cabbage,
collards, turnip greens, beans, corn, peas, onions, ‘taters, and jus’
evvything folkses laked in de way of gyarden sass. Marster never ‘lowed
but one smokehouse on his place. It wuz plumb full of meat, and evvy
slave had his meat rations weighed out reg’lar. Dere wuz jes’ one dairy
house too whar de slaves got all de milk and butter dey needed. Marster
sho’ did b’lieve in seeing dat his Niggers had a plenty to eat.

“Marster raised lots of chickens and de slaves raised chickens too if
dey wanted to. Marster let ’em have land to wuk for deyselves, but dey
had to wuk it atter dey come out of his fields. All dey made on dis land
wuz deir own to sell and do what dey wanted to wid. Lots of ’em plowed
and hoed by moonlight to make deir own crops.

“When us turned Marster’s watch dogs loose at night, dey warn’t nothin’
could come ’round dat place. Dey had to be kept chained up in de
daytime. Sometimes Marster let us take his dogs and go huntin’ and dey
wuz de best ‘possum trailers ’round dem parts. When dey barked up a
‘simmon tree, us allus found a ‘possum or two in dat tree. Sometimes
atter us cotched up lots of ’em, Marster let us have a ‘possum supper.
Baked wid plenty of butter and ‘tatoes and sprinkled over wid red
pepper, dey is mighty good eatments. My mouf’s jus’ a-waterin’ ’cause
I’m thinkin’ ’bout ‘possums.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“I am going to tell you the truth about what we had to eat, so listen
now. It was egg bread, biscuits, peas, potatoes–they they were called
‘taters then–artichoke pickles, tea cakes, pies, and good old healthy
lye hominy. There was plenty of meat served, but I was not allowed to
eat that, as I was never a very strong child. I was a fool about stale
bread, such as biscuit, cornbread, and light bread. Mother was a fine
cook and her battercakes would just melt in your mouth. Of course, you
know we had no stoves in those days and the cooking was done in open
fireplaces, in ovens and pots. Oh yes! We had a garden. There was only
one on the place and enough was raised in it to feed all of the people
living there.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“Ma’s chillun all had vittals from de white folkses kitchen. After Marse
Billie’s fambly done et and left de table, de cook wuz s’posed to take
what wuz left to feed de house niggers and her own chillun, and us did
have sho’ ’nuff good vittals. All de other slave folks had day rations
weighed out to ’em every week and dey cooked in dey own cabins. When de
wheat wuz ground at de mill it made white flour, and shorts, and
seconds. Most of de shorts wuz weighed out in rations for de slave
folks. Now and den at Christmas and special times dey got a little white
flour. Dey liked cornbread for reg’lar eatin’. Dey wuz always lots of
hogs on Marse Billie’s plantation, and his colored folkses had plenty of
side meat. Slaves never had no time to hunt in de day time, but dey sho’
could catch lots of ‘possums at night, and dey knowed how to git catfish
at night too.

“‘Cross de road from de Big ‘Ouse, Marse Billie had a big gyarden, and
he seed dat his help had plenty of somethin’ good to bile. Dey won’t no
separate gyardens. Dey didn’t have no time to work no gyardens of dey
own.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“My mother was the cook and looked after the house. Oh, yes indeed, we
had good food to eat. Bread, milk, meat, collard greens, turnips, and
potatoes. I would say we had just everything that was grown in the
garden and on the plantations to eat at that time. The cooking was done
in the kitchen in the yard. The fireplace was as wide as the end of this
room, and a long iron bar extended from one end to the other. The great
cooking pots were suspended over the coals from this bar by means of pot
hooks. Heavy iron skillets with thick lids were much used for baking,
and they had ovens of various sizes. I have seen my mother bake
beautiful biscuits and cakes in those old skillets, and they were ideal
for roasting meats. Mother’s batter cakes would just melt in your mouth
and she could bake and fry the most delicious fish. There was no certain
thing that I liked to eat more than anything else in those days. I was
young and had a keen appetite for all good things. Miss Fannie and Miss
Susan often made candy and it was so good I could have eaten all they
made, had they given it to me. My father hired his time out; he made and
sold gingercakes on the railroad.”

[Minnie Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Asked if there was sufficient food for all slaves, Uncle Mose said “I
never heard any complaints.” At the end of each week every family was
given some fat meat, black molasses, meal and flour in quantity varying
with the size of the family. At certain intervals during the week, they
were given vegetables. Here too, as in everything else, Mose’s father
was more fortunate than the others, since he took all his meals at the
mansion where he ate the same food served to the master and his family.
The only difference between Week-day and Sunday diet was that biscuits
were served on Sundays. The children were given only one biscuit each.
In addition to the other bread was considered a delicacy. All food stuff
was grown on the plantation.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“De fireplaces was a heap bigger dan dey has now, for all de cookin’ was
done in open fireplaces den. ‘Taters and cornpone was roasted in de
ashes and most of de other victuals was biled in de big old pots what
swung on cranes over de coals. Dey had long-handled fryin’ pans and
heavy iron skillets wid big, thick, tight-fittin’ lids, and ovens of all
sizes to bake in. All of dem things was used right dar in de fireplace.
Dere never was no better tastin’ somepin t’eat dan dat cooked in dem old
cook-things in open fireplaces.

“Durin’ of de war time, soda and salt was both hard to git. Dey biled
down de dirt from under old smokehouses to git salt, and soda was made
out of burnt corncobs. You would be s’prised to see what good cookin’
could be done wid dat old corncob soda.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“The amount of food given each slave was also inadequate as a general
rule. At the end of each week they all went to a certain spot on the
plantation where each was given 1 peck of meal, 1 gal. of syrup, and 3
pounds of meat. They often suffered from that particular stomach ailment
commonly known as hunger. At such times raids were made on the
smokehouse. This was considered as stealing by the master and the
overseer but to them it was merely taking that which they had worked
for. At other times they increased their food by hunting and fishing.
Possums and coons were the usual game from such a hunting expedition.
All meals usually consisted of grits, bacon, syrup, corn bread and
vegetables. On Sundays and holidays the meals varied to the extent that
they were allowed to have biscuits which they called “cake bread.” The
slaves made coffee by parching corn meal, okra seed or Irish potatoes.
When sufficiently parched any one of the above named would make a vile
type of coffee. Syrup was used for all sweetening purposes. The produce
from the gardens which the master allowed them could only be used for
home consumption and under no circumstances could any of it be sold.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Grown folks was fed cornbread and meat wid plenty of vegetables in de
week days and on Sunday mornin’s dey give ’em wheat bread, what was
somethin’ slaves didn’t see no more ’til de next Sunday mornin’. ‘Bout
four o’clock on summer atternoons, dey sot a big old wooden bowl full of
cornbread crumbs out in de yard and poured in buttermilk or potliquor
’til de crumbs was kivered. Den dey let de chillun gather ’round it and
eat ’til de bowl was empty. In winter chillun was fed inside de house.

“‘Possums, Oh, mussy me! My grandpa hunted ‘possums at night and fetched
in two and three at a time. Don’t say nothin’ ’bout dem rabbits for dere
warn’t no end to ’em. Rabbits stewed, rabbits fried, and rabbits dried,
smoked, and cured lak hog meat! I et so many rabbits when I was young I
can’t stand to look at ’em now but I could eat ‘possums and gnaw de
bones all day long. Marse Billy let grandpa go fishin’ and he was all
time bringin’ back a passel of minnows and other fishes. Us rubbed ’em
down wid lard and salt and pepper, den rolled ’em in cornmeal and baked
’em. I never seed no fried meat ’til I was a big strappin’ gal. Dere was
one big gyarden whar dey raised ‘nough vegetables for all de white folks
and slaves too. All de bilin’ was done in pots swung on cranes over
coals in de fireplace.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“Rations were distributed on Sunday morning of each week, and the slaves
had plenty to eat. The slaves were also allowed to fish, thus often
adding variety to their regular fare.”

[Martha Everette, Part I, Georgia]

“As a general rule all of the slaves on this plantation had enough food
to keep them well and healthy. At the end of each week the field hands
were given enough food to last them seven days. For most of them the
week’s supply consisted of three and one-half pounds of pork or fat
meat, one peck of meal, flour, and black molasses. The only meals that
they had to prepare from the above mentioned articles were breakfast and
supper. Dinner was cooked in the plantation kitchen by one of the women
who was too old for work in the fields. For this particular meal the
slaves had some different type of vegetable each day along with the fat
meat, corn bread, and the pot liquor which was served every day. They
were allowed to come in from the fields to the house to be served.
Breakfast usually consisted of fat meat, molasses, and corn bread while
supper consisted of pot-liquor, bread, and milk. The only variation from
this diet was on Sunday when all were allowed to have bisquits instead
of corn bread. Mr. Favors was asked what happened if anyone’s food was
all eaten before it was time for the weekly issue and he answered: “It
was just too bad for them ’cause they would have to do the best they
could until the time came to get more.” When such a thing happened to
anyone the others usually helped as far as their limited supplies would
permit.

Mr. Favors says that he, his mother, and the two maids ate the same kind
of food that the “Widow,” and her nieces were served. After he had seen
to the wants of all at the table he had to take a seat at the table
beside his owner where he ate with her and the others seated there.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“Us cotch lots of ‘possums, but mighty few of ’em us Niggers ever got a
chance to eat, or rabbits neither. Dey made Niggers go out and hunt ’em
and de white folks et ’em. Our mouths would water for some of dat
‘possum but it warn’t often dey let us have none. I don’t know nothin’
’bout no fishin’ bein’ done dem days. Yessum, slaves had deir own
gyardens, and dey better wuk ’em good if dey wanted any gyarden sass to
eat. Cookin’ was done in dem big open fireplaces, mostly in pots and
thick iron skillets what had lids on ’em.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“What I et? Anything I could git. Peas, green corn, ‘tatoes, cornbread,
meat and lye hominy was what dey give us more dan anything else. Bakin’
was done in big old ovens what helt three pones of bread and in skillets
what helt two. Big pots for bilin’ was swung over de coals in de
fireplace. Dey was hung on hooks fastened to de chimbly or on cranes
what could be swung off de fire when dey wanted to dish up de victuals.
Hit warn’t nothin’ for us to ketch five or six ‘possums in one night’s
huntin’. De best way to tote ‘possums is to split a stick and run deir
tails thoo’ de crack–den fling de stick crost your shoulders and tote
de ‘possums ‘long safe and sound. Dat way dey can’t bite you. Dey’s bad
’bout gnawin’ out of sacks. When us went giggin’ at night, us most allus
fotched back a heap of fishes and frogs. Dere was allus plenty of fishes
and rabbits. Our good old hound dog was jus’ ’bout as good at trailin’
rabbits in de daytime as he was at treein’ ‘possums at night. I was
young and spry, and it didn’t seem to make no diff’unce what I et dem
days. Big gyardens was scattered over de place whar-some-ever Marster
happened to pick out a good gyarden spot. Dem gyardens all b’longed to
our Marster, but he fed us all us wanted out of ’em.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Money! Oh-h-h, no Ma’am! I never seed no money ’til I was a great big
gal. My white folks was rich and fed us good. Dey raised lots of hogs
and give us plenty of bread and meat wid milk and butter and all sorts
of vegetables. Marster had one big garden and dere warn’t nobody had
more good vegetables den he fed to his slaves. De cookin’ was done in
open fireplaces and most all de victuals was biled or fried. Us had all
de ‘possums, squirrels, rabbits, and fish us wanted cause our marster
let de mens go huntin’ and fishin’ lots.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Every two weeks, rations of meal, molasses and bacon were given each
slave family in sufficient quantity. The slaves prepared their own
meals, but were not allowed to leave the fields until noon. A nursing
mother, however, could leave between times.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“Margaret described “the quarters” and told of the life. “Each fam’ly had
a garden patch, and could raise cotton. Only Marse Cooke raised cotton;
what we raised we et”.”

[Margaret Green, Part II, Georgia]

“All us little niggers on the Booker plantation et in de white folks’
kitchen, a big old kitchen out in de yard. De grown slaves cooked and et
in dey cabins, but our Mistess wouldn’t trust ’em to feed de little
ones. My Gramma wuz de cook an’ we had plenty of good victuals, we’d all
set er round an’ eat all we wanted three times er day.”

[Wheeler Gresham, Part II, Georgia]

“Food consisting of meal, bacon meat, and syrup was given the slave
families once a week. Occasionally “short” a second quality of flour was
given them for their Sunday meals. The Griffins were not liberal in
feeding their slaves, but would not object to their raising a little
corn, and a few vegetables. They had to work their gardens at night,
however, by the light of burning fat wood. Real coffee was on unheard-of
luxury among slaves: so scorched or corn meal served the purpose just as
well. On Christmas the master called each slave and gave him a dram of
whiskey. No other food or fruit was given. [HW: strikes this sentence
out]

Tin pans served as plates for the families. Spoons, knives, and forks
were unheard of: “Many a day I have eaten mashed bread and milk from a
trough and thought it was good,” remarked Mr. Griffin.

Occasionally on other plantations slaves were allowed to earn money by
selling vegetables, chickens, etc. On the Griffin Plantation they could
only sell home made “gingercakes” for which a five-cent piece of paper
money was received in return. There were three pieces of paper money
used in those days: the five-cent, ten-cent, and fifteen-cent pieces.”

[Heard Griffin, Part II, Georgia]

“The rations for the next week were given each family on saturday nights,
amounts varying according to the number in each family. Usually a small
family received three lbs. of bacon, one peck of meal, and one quart of
syrup.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“What did us have t’eat? Oo-o! Dey give us plenty good victuals. Dere
was bread and meat; peas, greens, and other vegetables; all de milk us
wanted, and sometimes dere was good old gingercakes made wid sorghum
syrup. As for me, I laked fried fat meat and cornbread cooked in de
ashes better dan greens and sweet things any old time. All de cookin’
was done in great big open fireplaces dat was plum full of ovens,
skillets and all sorts of long handled pans and things. Gentlemen! Dat
pot would bile down wid dem peas in it ‘fore you knowed it if you didn’t
watch it close. Dere never was no other bread good as what us baked in
dem ovens and in de ashes.

“‘Possums! You jus’ makes my mouth water, talkin’ ’bout ‘possums. Folks
thought so much of deir ‘possum dogs dem days dey fed ’em ’til dey was
jus’ fat and lazy. Dey cotched de ‘possums, singed and scraped de hair
off of ’em, finished dressin’ ’em and drapped ’em in de pot to bile ’til
dey was tender. Den dey put ’em in bakin’ pans and kivvered ’em over wid
strips of fat meat and baked ’em jus’ as nice and brown, and if dey had
good sweet ‘tatoes, dey roasted ’em in de ashes, peeled ’em, and put ’em
on de big old platters wid de ‘possums. Rabbits was plentiful too and I
loves ’em ’til dis good day. Most of de young tender rabbits what dey
cotched was fried, but if dey brung in some old tough ones dey was
throwed in de pot wid a piece of fat meat and biled ’til dey was done.
Squirrels was cooked jus’ lak rabbits. Dere was plenty of fish down dar
in Greene County whar us lived, but I never did eat ’em. Slaves would
wuk all day and fish all night, but you never did ketch Dosia foolin’
’round no fish ponds. Slave famblies was ‘lowed to have little gyarden
patches if dey wanted ’em. I ricollect how I used to go to de gyarden in
de winter and cut down collards atter frost had done hit ’em and fetched
’em to de house to be biled down for dinner.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Oh, but us had plenty of good things to eat on de Poore
plantation–meat and bread wid lots of turnips and ‘tatoes. ‘Bout once a
month dey give us lallyhoe. Dey calls dat ‘lasses now. Us et our
breakfast and dinner out of wooden bowls. Under a long shed built next
to de kitchen was a long trough. At night dey crumbled cornbread in it,
and poured it full of buttermilk. Grown folks and chilluns all gathered
‘roun’ dat old trough and et out of it wid deir wooden spoons. No Ma’am,
dere warn’t no fightin’ ‘roun’ dat trough. Dey all knowed better’n dat.

“Us got ‘possums and rabbits de best ways us could–cotch ’em in traps,
hit ’em wid rocks, and trailed ’em wid dogs. Us lakked ‘possums baked
wid ‘tatoes, but most of de rabbits was stewed wid dumplin’s. All our
cookin’ was done on big open fireplaces. Dey didn’t fry nothin’ dem
days; leastwise dey never give de slaves no fried victuals. Grown folks
seined for fish in Big Crick and Saluda River at night, ’cause dey
couldn’t git away f’um field wuk in de day. Chillun cotch a heap of fish
wid hook and line. De river and crick bofe run thoo’ Miss Annie’s
plantation so us didn’t have to ax for a pass evvy time us went a
fishin’. Us allus had to have a pass if us left de plantation for
anything or de patterollers was apt to git you and look out den, for you
was sho’ to git a larrupin’ if dey cotch you off f’um home widout no
pass.

“Dere warn’t but one gyarden on de Poore plantation, and it was big
enough to feed all de white folks and slaves too. Two whole acres of dat
gyarden was sowed down in turnips.”

[Tom Hawkins, Part II, Georgia]

“Evvybody cooked on fireplaces dem days, ’cause dere warn’t no
sto’-bought stoves. Marse Tom fed all his slaves at de big house; he
kept ’em so regular at wuk dere warn’t no time for ’em to do deir own
cookin’.

“Folks sho ‘nough did live at home den; dey raised all sorts of
vegetables sich as corn, ‘taters, wheat, rye, and oats, and what’s more,
dey raised de cotton and wool to make de cloth for deir clothes. Cows,
hogs, goats, sheep, chickens, geese, and turkeys was runnin’ all over
dem pastures, and dere warn’t no lack of good victuals and home-made
clothes. When hogs and cows was kilt to put meat in de smokehouse deir
hides was tanned for leather to be used for harness and shoes, and a
heap of times a piece of hide was used for a cheer-seat.

“Daddy said dey had a powerful hard time gittin’ things lak soda, salt,
sugar, and coffee durin’ de war times. He said dat sometimes corn and
okra seeds was parched right brown and ground up to be used for coffee,
but it warn’t nigh as good as sho ‘nough coffee. When de salt had to be
used if folks and critters was to keep well. Dey dug up de dirt under
old smokehouses and biled it to git out de salt. Nobody didn’t waste
none of dat salt. No Surree! It was too hard to git. When it got so dey
couldn’t buy no soda, dey saved nice clean corncobs and burned dem into
a fine powder what dey used for soda. Was it fit for bread-makin’? Why,
Missy, dem biscuits made out of corncob soda and baked in dem old dutch
ovens was fit for anybody to eat and enjoy. De onliest trouble ’bout it
was gittin’ ’em to bake enough of it.

“Chillun loved hogkillin’ times. Five or six mens would jine up and go
from place to place in de community whar dere was lots of hogs to be
kilt. When dem hogs was all butchered de folks would git together and
sich a supper as dey would have! De mostest fresh meat sich as
chit’lin’s, haslets, pig foots, and sausage, wid good old collard
greens, cracklin’ bread, and hot coffee. I’m a-tellin’ you, Lady, dat
was good eatin’, and atter you had done been wukin’ in de hogkillin’ dem
cold days you was ready for victuals dat would stay by you.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Meals on week days consisted principally of syrup and bread and they
were glad, Emmaline stated, to see Saturday come, because they knew they
would have biscuit made from “seconds” on Sunday. Butter seems to have
been a delicacy but little known. “The only butter I remember eating
before we were freed,” Emmaline declared, “was that which my little
mistress Fannie would slip to me.” This led her mother to say, “Miss
Fannie is so crazy about ‘Em’ I am going to give ‘Em’ to her for a
cook.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“Summer rations on the Henderson plantations never varied from bacon and
corn bread. In the fall each family was free to eat as many of the
different vegetables as they wanted.

Wooden spoons, bowls, and trays, were kept clean by scouring regularly
with sand. At Christmas those who asked for whiskey were given an ample
amount; and occasionally each family was given a cake baked by Mr.
Henderson’s mother.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us et home produce them days. Folks didn’t know nothin’ ’bout livin’
out of cans and paper sacks lak they does now. Thar was allus plenty of
hog meat, syrup, milk and butter, cornbread, and sometimes us chillun
got a biscuit. Thar was one big old garden on the place that had
evvything in the way of vegetables growin’ in it, besides the patches of
beans, peas, ‘taters, and the lak that was scattered ’round in the
fields. The orchards was full of good fruit sich as apples, peaches,
pears, and plums, and don’t forgit them blackberries, currants, and figs
what growed ’round the aidge of the back yard, in fence corners, and off
places. Sho, us had ‘possums, plenty of ’em, ’cause they let us use the
dogs to trail ’em down with. ‘Possums was biled ’til they was tender,
then baked with sweet ‘taters, and thar ain’t no better way been found
to fix ’em to this good day, not even if they’s barbecued. Sho, sho, us
had rabbits and squirrels by the wholesale, and fish too if us tuk time
to do our fishin’ at night. They never did lak to see slaves settin’
’round fishin’ in the daytime.

“All the cookin’ was done in a log cabin what sot a good little piece
behind the big house. The big old fireplace in that kitchen held a
four-foot log, and when you was little you could set on one end of that
log whilst it was a-burnin’ on t’other. They biled in pots hangin’ from
hooks on a iron bar that went all the way ‘cross the fireplace, and the
bakin’ was done in skillets and ovens, but sometimes bread was wropt up
in cabbage or collard leaves and baked in hot ashes; that was ashcake.
Thick iron lids fitted tight on them old skillets, and most of ’em had
three legs so hot coals could be raked under ’em. The ovens sot on
trivets over the coals.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Food was always given out to the slaves from the commissary and the
smokehouse. There was flour and corn meal, dried beans and other
vegetables, and cured pork and beef in the winter. In season the
servants had access to the master’s vegetable garden and they were
always given as much milk as they could use.”

[Robert Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Warn’t nothin’ short ’bout de eats. Our white folkses b’lieved in good
eatin’s. Dey give us bread and meat wid all de cabbage, colla’d and
turnip greens us wanted, and us had ‘matoes, ‘tatoes, chickens and
ducks. Yessum, and dere allus was plenty ‘possums and rabbits cooked
’bout lak dey is now, only dere warn’t no stoves in dem days. Pots for
biling swung on racks dey called cranes, over de coals in big open
fireplaces. Baking was done in ovens and skillets. Dere was allus lots
of fishes in season, but I didn’t do none of de fishin’, ’cause I was
too skeered of de water when I was a chap.”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us et good, not much diff’unt f’um what us does now. Most times it was
meat and bread wid turnip greens, lye hominy, milk, and butter. All our
cookin’ was done on open fireplaces. Oh! I was fond of ‘possums,
sprinkled wid butter and pepper, and baked down ’til de gravy was good
and brown. You was lucky if you got to eat ‘possum and gnaw de bones
atter my Ma done cooked it.

“Dey cotch rabbits wid dogs. Now and den, a crowd of Niggers would jump
a rabbit when no dogs was ’round. Dey would tho’ rocks at him and run
him in a hollow log. Den dey would twiss him out wid hickory wisps
(withes). Sometimes dere warn’t no fur left on de rabbit time dey got
him twisted out, but dat was all right. Dey jus’ slapped him over daid
and tuk him on to de cabin to be cooked. Rabbits was most gen’ally
fried.

“Grown boys didn’t want us chillun goin’ ‘long ‘possum huntin’ wid ’em,
so all right, dey tuk us way off crost de fields ’til dey found a good
thick clump of bushes, and den dey would holler out dat dere was some
moughty fine snipes ’round dar. Dey made us hold de poke (bag) open so
de snipes could run in. Den dey blowed out deir light’ood knot torches,
and left us chillun holdin’ de poke whilst dey went on huntin’ ‘possums.

“Atter dinner Saddays all of us tuk our hooks, poles, and lines down to
Dry Fork Crick, when it was de right time of de year to fish. Sometimes
dey stewed fish for old folkses to eat, but young folkses loved ’em
fried best.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“All food was raised on the plantation and cooked in the family kitchen.
Every one had the same kind of food and the game caught or killed by the
elder sons was a delicacy relished by all. When the family meal was
served, a mischievous collection of black children would sometimes crawl
under the table and meddle with each person seated there. Instead of
being scolded, they would receive luscious morsels from the hands of the
diners. Mrs. Huff often laughingly stated that she knew not which was
more annoying–“the children or the chickens, as neither were disciplined.”

[Annie Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Food was cooked on an open
fireplace and the frying pan was the most important utensil; vegetables
were boiled in a swinging kettle. The griddle stood several inches from
the floor, on three small pegs. Through the middle a “pin” was placed so
that the griddle might revolve as the bread etc., cooked on the side
near the hottest part of the fire. Matches, a luxury, were then sold in
small boxes the size of the average snuff box at ten cents per box.

Food was provided by the Master who gave it out in regular weekly
allotments. Collard greens, peas, smoked meat and corn bread were the
chief items on all menus. On Sundays a small amount of flour for
biscuits and some coffee was given; buttermilk was always plentiful.
Holidays were usually synonymous with barbecue when large hogs and
beeves were killed and an ample supply of fresh meat was given each
person. As all food was raised on the plantation, everyone had plenty.”

Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Victuals dem days warn’t fancy lak day is now, but Marstar allus seed
dat us had plenty of milk and butter, all kinds of greens for bilein’,
‘tatoes and peas and sich lak. Chilluns et cornbread soaked in de pot
liquor what de greens or peas done been biled in. Slaves never got much
meat. Dey mixed butter wid home-made syrup and sopped it up wid
cornbread. Dare warn’t much wheat bread for slaves.

“Dere was a good ‘possum hound on de plantation what was a fine rabbit
dog too, and Marster let us use him to ketch us lots of ‘possums and
rabbits. De mens went seinin’ at night in Buffalo Crick what run thoo’
Marse Jabe’s place. Dey used to put back all de little fishes and de
turkles and tarrepins. ‘Possums was baked wid sweet ‘tatoes and rabbits
was parbiled in a big old open fireplace in big pots and skillets.
Marster had one big gyarden whar enough was growed for evvybody on de
whole plantation, but some of de slaves was ‘lowed to have deir own
little gyardens and cotton patches what dey wukked on moonlight nights.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Dey allus had plenty to cook, ’cause dere was plenty of victuals raised
on Marse Jack’s place. Chillun was all fed up at de big house whar Marse
Garner, de overseer, lived. Deir mammies was ‘lowed to come in from de
fields in time to cook dinner for de menfolks, but dey didn’t git deir
chillun back home ’til atter supper. Granny Rose had ’em all day, and
she had to see dat dey had de right sort of victuals to make chillun
grow fast and strong. Chillun et out of wooden trays, and, Honey, dey
sho was some sight; dey looked jus’ lak pig troughs. Dey poured peas,
cabbage, or whatever de chillun was to eat right in dat trough on top of
a passel of cornbread. For supper chillun jus’ had milk and bread, but
dere was allus plenty of it. Marse Jack had lots of cows, and old Aunt
Mary didn’t have no other job but to churn enough so dere would allus be
plenty of milk and butter, ’cause Marse Jack had done said milk was good
for chillun and dat us was to have it to drink any time us wanted it.

“Evvybody cooked on fireplaces den. I jus’ wish you could see dat big
old fireplace in de big house kitchen; you could stand up in it. It had
long racks clear acrost de inside for de pots what dey biled in to hang
on. Bakin’ was done in thick iron skillets dat had heavy lids. You sot
’em on coals and piled more coals all over ’em. Us had somepin dat most
folks didn’t have; dat was long handled muffin pans. Dey had a lid dat
fitted down tight, and you jus’ turned ’em over in de fire ’til de
muffins was cooked on both sides. I had dem old muffin irons here, but
de lid got broke off and dese here boys done lost ’em diggin’ in de
ground wid ’em. Dem victuals cooked on open fireplaces was mighty fine,
and I wishes you could have a chance to see jus’ how nice dey was.

“Evvy kind of vegetable us knowed anything ’bout was raised right dar on
de place and dey had big old fields of corn, oats, rye, and wheat. Us
had lots of fruit trees on de plantation too. Dere warn’t no runnin’ off
to de store evvy time dere was a special meal to be got up. Coffee,
sugar, salt, and black pepper was de most Marse Jack had to buy in de
way of victuals. Course dey was hard to git in war times. Parched corn
and okra seed was ground together for coffee, and us had to git up dirt
under old smokehouses and bile it down for salt. Dere was allus a little
sugar ’round de sides of de syrup barr’ls, and us had to make out wid
dat hot red pepper ’til atter de war was done over a good long time,
‘fore dere was any more black pepper shipped in. Spite of all dat,
Honey, dem was good old days.

“Marster raised enough cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, and turkeys for us
to have all de meat us needed. He had lots of mules and oxen too. Dey
used de mules for ‘most of de plowin’ and for goin’ to mill, and don’t
forgit it took plenty of goin’ to mill to feed as many Niggers as our
Marster had. Lordy, Lady! I never knowed how many slaves he owned. Oxen
pulled dem two-wheeled carts dey hauled in de craps wid, and I has rid
to town in a ox-cart many a time. Dem old oxen was enough to make a
preacher lose his best ‘ligion. Dey had a heap of mean ways, but de wust
thing dey done was to run spang down in de water evvy time dey come to a
crick. It never mattered how deep it was, and you might holler all day,
but dey warn’t coming out of dat water ’till dey was good and ready. Dat
happened evvy time dey saw a crick, but dere warn’t nothin’ us could do
’bout it, for Marse Jack sho never ‘lowed nobody to lay deir paws on his
stock.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“De slave quarters was jus’ log cabins, and dey cooked on fireplaces
jus’ lak at de big house. Marster didn’t have many Niggers, but us had
plenty somepin’ t’eat. He had a big gyarden whar he raised mos’
evvything: corn, ‘taters, cabbages, peas, onions, collard greens, and
lots of pun’kins. When de mens plowed up de ‘taters us chillun had to go
‘long and put ’em in baskets. De bestes’ times was hog killin’ times. Us
chillun wukked den. Dey hung up de hogs all night and nex’ day us cut
’em, put ’em down in salt, and cooked up de lard. Us chillun got some of
dem good old skin cracklin’s when dey got brown.

“Atter Marster tuk de meat out of de salt, he put brown sugar and
‘lasses on de hams and shoulders, sacked ’em up, and hanged ’em in de
smokehouse. Den he say for us to git de fire ready. Us made a fire wid
cottonseed to smoke de meat. Dat kep’ it good, and it didn’t git old
tastin’. It was sho’ good eatin’ when you got some of dat meat.

“Ma done de cookin’ and house wuk at de big house for Mist’ess Jane
Robinson. White folkses had lots of comp’ny, and dey had de cook fix de
mostes’ good things for ’em. Dey kilt heaps of chickens and cooked whole
hams and lots of ‘tater puddin’s and sich lak. When Ma steamed pun’kin
’til it was done and den fried it, hit sho’ would make your mouf water.
Missy’s folkses was crazy ’bout de ‘tater puddin’s what Ma made, and
when she went off to visit ’em she allus had Ma bake one for her to take
‘long to ’em.”

[Alice Hutcheson, Part II, Georgia]

“Dere wuz a always plenty to eat ’cause dey raised everything dat you
c’n think of. Dere wuz all kinds o’ vegetables an’ big fiel’s of hogs
an’ ’bout fifteen or twenty head’a cattle dat had to be milked everyday.
Dem dat had families got a issue o’ food everyday an’ de others whut wuz
single wuz fed at de cookhouse. De only time we ever got biscuits wuz on
Sundays–de res’ o’ de time we et cornbread. Marster had two
smokehouses–one fer de lard an’ one fer de meat. Besides des he ‘lowed
de slaves to raise dere own vegetables in dey wanted to but dey could’nt
raise no chickens on stuff like dat”.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves did not have to prepare their food during the week. Their food
was brought to them in pails from the “big house”. (The master’s house
was called the “big house”.) On Sundays they were given groceries to
prepare their own meals. Mrs. Jackson remembers the bread that was made
from “shorts”. “Shorts” was the name given to a second grade of flour,
similar to whole wheat. The first grade was always used in the master’s
house. As a whole, Dr. Hoyle gave his slaves enough food; however, on
several occasions she remembers that a friend of her mother’s, who lived
on the adjoining plantation, handed pans of food over the fence to them.”

[Camila Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Yes Ma’am, hit
sho’ is hard times wid old Hailie now. I was raised whar folks had
plenty. Our white folks warn’t no pore white trash, and if my old
Marster and Mist’ess was a-livin’ today dey sho’ would do somepin’ for
old Hailie in a hurry, ’cause dey allus give us plenty of evvything dey
had.”

Marse Hamp was sho’ a rich man
and on his big old plantation dey raised evvything dey needed lak, peas,
‘tatoes, ingons, collards, cabbages, and turnip sallet, beans, punkins,
and plenty of corn, wheat and rye. Marse Hamp had lots of cows, hogs,
sheep, and goats too. Miss Liza was our Mist’ess, and she raised more
chickens dan dey ever could use. I just tells you, my white folks warn’t
no pore folks.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“On our plantation de white folks been feedin’ de slaves off fat meat,
jowls, an’ heads an’ jaws. Dey kept all de meat out in de smoke house in
de back yard. In dis house dey kept de hams all hangin’ up high an’
above dem dey kept de sausages and den above dem dey kept de finest hams
all trimmed an’ everything. De slaves eat dat fat meat an’ thought dat
dey wus eatin’ pound cake. Come down to chicken–if you got it you stole
it when de white folks wus sleep at night an’ den you had to be careful
an’ bury all de feathers in de groun’ ’cause if you burned ’em de white
folks would smell ’em.”

[Benjamin Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“Ma said her didn’t never see no hog meat ’til she come to dis country.
Her said dey et all sorts of fishes; just went to de beach and got
crabs, oysters, and swimp (shrimp) wid de hulls still on ’em, but when
her done et some hog meat at Marster’s plantation, her said hit sho’ was
good.

“On de plantation dey had big gyardens whar dey raised heaps of
cabbages, potatoes, colla’d greens, turnip sallet, onions, peas,
rutabagas, and pun’kins and sech lak. Dey raised plenty of chickens,
tukkeys, hogs, cows and sheep, and dey wove good wool cloth on de
plantation looms out of de wool f’um dem dar sheep.”

[Georgia Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“De overseer’s house was a one-story buildin’ and it was furnished in de
old time stuff. De beds was teestered and had slats to hold de
mattresses. When Marster would come in from de fields he would be so
tired he never did go nowhar. Sometimes I would say to him, ‘I’se cold,’
and he would say, ‘Nig, you jus’ crawl up on de foot of my bed and git
warm.’ He would say ‘Nig, what you want for supper?’ and I would say, ‘I
wants some bread and milk and a little syrup.’ He give me anything dat I
wanted to eat, and us had good things to eat. Us had chickens, hogs, and
good milk cows. I kin see de big bowls of milk now dat us used to have.
Us made a heap of butter and sont it to Augusta onct a month and sold it
for 25c a pound.”

[Fannie Jones, Part II, Georgia]

“There was always enough feed for everybody on the Moore plantation. Mrs.
Moore once told Jennie’s mother to always see that her children had
sufficient to eat so that they would not have to steal and would
therefore grow up to be honorable. As the Grandmother did all of the
cooking, none of the other servants ever had to cook, not even on
Sundays or other holidays such as the Fourth of July. There was no stove
in this plantation kitchen, all the cooking was done at the large
fireplace where there were a number of hooks called potracks. The pots,
in which the cooking was done, hung from these hooks directly over the
fire.

The meals served during the week consisted of vegetables, salt bacon,
corn bread, pot liquor, and milk. On Sunday they were served milk,
biscuits, vegetables, and sometimes chicken. Jennie Kendricks ate all of
her meals in the master’s house and says that her food was even better.
She was also permitted to go to the kitchen to get food at any time
during the day. Sometimes when the boys went hunting everyone was given
roast ‘possum and other small game. The two male slaves were often
permitted to accompany them but were not allowed to handle the guns.
None of the slaves had individual gardens of their own as food
sufficient for their needs was raised in the master’s garden.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes, Miss, we had plenty
of liquor. Ole Master always kept kegs of it in the cellar and big
‘Jimmy-john’s’ full in the house, and every Saturday night he’d give us
darkies a dram, but nobody nevah seed no drunk Nigger lak dey does now.”

Charlie’s mother used to give her “chillun” “burnt whiskey” every
morning “to start the day off.” This burnt whiskey gave them “long
life”.”

[Charlie King, Part III, Georgia]

“Mr. Lewis states that he and his fellow slaves always had “pretty fair”
food. Before they moved to Georgia the rations were issued daily and for
the most part an issue consisted of vegetables, rice, beans, meat
(pork), all kinds of fish and grits, etc.

De food wus “pretty fair” here
too. We got corn bread an’ biscuit sometimes–an’ it was sometimes
too–bacon, milk, all kinds of vegetables an’ sicha stuff like dat. De
flour dat we made de biscuits out of was de third grade shorts.”

The food on Sunday was almost identical with that eaten during the week.
However, those who desired to were allowed to hunt as much as they
pleased to at night. They were not permitted to carry guns and so when
the game was treed the tree had to be cut down in order to get it. It
was in this way that the family larder was increased.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“‘Bout dem eatments, Miss, it was lek dis, dere warn’t no fancy victuals
lak us thinks us got to have now, but what dere was, dere was plenty of.
Most times dere was poke sallet, turnip greens, old blue head collards,
cabbages, peas, and ‘taters by de wholesale for de slaves to eat and,
onct a week, dey rationed us out wheat bread, syrup, brown sugar, and
ginger cakes. What dey give chillun de most of was potlicker poured over
cornbread crumbs in a long trough. For fresh meat, outside of killin’ a
shoat, a lamb, or a kid now and den, slaves was ‘lowed to go huntin’ a
right smart and dey fotch in a good many turkles (turtles), ‘possums,
rabbits, and fish. Folks didn’t know what iron cookstoves was dem days.
Leastwise, our white folks didn’t have none of ’em. All our cookin’ was
done in open fireplaces in big old pots and pans. Dey had thick iron
skillets wid heavy lids on ’em, and dey could bake and fry too in dem
skillets. De meats, cornbread, biscuits, and cakes what was cooked in
dem old skillets was sho’ mighty good.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“As has been previously stated, Mrs. Hale did all of the cooking on the
plantation with the possible exception of Sundays when the slaves cooked
for themselves. During the week their diet usually consisted of corn
bread, fat meat, vegetables, milk, and potliquor. The food that they ate
on Sunday was practically the same. All the food that they ate was
produced in the master’s garden and there was a sufficient amount for
everyone at all times.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“Yes, Ma’am, Marse Billy ‘lowed his slaves to have their own gyardens,
and ‘sides plenty of good gyarden sass, we had milk and butter, bread
and meat, chickens, greens, peas, and just everything that growed on the
farm. Winter and summer, all the food was cooked in a great big
fireplace, about four feet wide, and you could put on a whole stick of
cord wood at a time. When they wanted plenty of hot ashes to bake with,
they burnt wood from ash trees. Sweet potatoes and bread was baked in
the ashes. Seems like vittuls don’t taste as good as they used to, when
we cooked like that. ‘Possums, Oh! I dearly love ‘possums. My cousins
used to catch ’em and when they was fixed up and cooked with sweet
potatoes, ‘possum meat was fit for a king. Marse Billy had a son named
Mark, what was a little bitty man. They said he was a dwarf. He never
done nothing but play with the children on the plantation. He would take
the children down to the crick what run through the plantation and fish
all day. We had rabbits, but they was most generally caught in a box
trap, so there warn’t no time wasted a-huntin’ for ’em.”

[Susan McIntosh, Part III, Georgia]

“Most of the Negro mothers did field work, so it was necessary for others
to care for the children. Mr. Ball handled this problem in the usual
way. He established what would today be called a day nursery. Each
mother brought her offspring to the home of an elderly woman before
leaving for her day’s work. Here, they were safely kept until their
parents returned. The midday meal for everyone was prepared at the Big
House and the slaves were served from huge tubs of vegetables and pots
of meat. “Aunt” Julia was responsible for the children’s noon meal.

Food was distributed on Sunday morning. Two-and-a-half pounds of meat, a
quantity of syrup, and a peck of meal were given each adult for the
week. A special ration for Sunday alone was potatoes, buttermilk, and
material for biscuits. Each family had its own garden from which a
supply of vegetables could always be obtained in season. The smaller
children had additional delicacies, for they early learned that the
house where produce was kept had holes in the floor which yielded
peanuts, etc, when punched with a stick.”

[Matilda McKinney, Part III, Georgia]

“Now, you is talkin’ ’bout somepin sho ‘nough when you starts ’bout dem
victuals. Marse Joe, he give us plenty of sich as collards, turnips and
greens, peas, ‘taters, meat, and cornbread. Lots of de cornbread was
baked in pones on spiders, but ashcakes was a mighty go in dem days.
Marster raised lots of cane so as to have plenty of good syrup. My pa
used to ‘possum hunt lots and he was ‘lowed to keep a good ‘possum hound
to trail ’em wid. Rabbits and squirrels was plentiful and dey made
mighty good eatin’. You ain’t never seed sich heaps of fish as slaves
used to fetch back atter a little time spent fishin’ in de cricks and de
river.

“De kitchen was sot off from de big house a little piece, but Old
Marster had a roof built over de walkway so fallin’ weather wouldn’t
spile de victuals whilst dey was bein’ toted from de kitchen in de yard
to de dinin’ room in de big house. I don’t reckon you ever seed as big a
fireplace as de one dey cooked on in dat old kitchen. It had plenty of
room for enough pots, skillets, spiders, and ovens to cook for all de
folks on dat plantation. No, mam, slaves never had no gardens of deir
own; dey never had no time of deir own to wuk no garden, but Old Marster
fed ’em from his garden and dat was big enough to raise plenty for all.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“My white folks wern’t rich er tall but we always had plenty of somep’n
to eat, and we had fire wood to keep us warm in winter too. We had
plenty of syrup and corn bread, and when dey killed a hog we had fine
sausage an chitlin’s, an all sorts of good eating. My marster and the
white an collored boys would go hunting, and we had squirrels an rabbits
an possums jes lots of time. Yessum, we had plenty; we never did go
hongry.”

[Susan Matthews, Part III, Georgia]

“Back in dem times, folkses cooked on open fireplaces in winter time and
in summer dey built cook stands out in de yard to set de spiders on, so
us could cook and eat outdoors. Dere warn’t no stoves nowhar. When us
wuz hard up for sompin’ green to bile ‘fore de gyardens got goin’ good,
us used to go out and git wild mustard, poke salad, or pepper grass. Us
et ’em satisfactory and dey never kilt us. I have et heaps of kinds of
diffunt weeds and I still eats a mess of poke salad once or twice a year
’cause it’s good for you. Us cooked a naked hunk of fat meat in a pot
wid some corn dumplin’s.

“De grown folks would eat de meat and de chilluns would sit around on de
floor and eat de potlikker and dumplin’s out of tin pans. Us enjoyed dat
stuff jus’ lak it had been pound cake.”

[Liza Mention, Part III, Georgia]

“According to Mr. Orford there was always sufficient food on the Orford
plantation for the slaves. All cooking was done by one cook at the cook
house. In front of the cook house were a number of long tables where the
slaves ate their meals when they came in from the fields. Those children
who were too young to work in the fields were also fed at this house but
instead of eating from the tables as did the grown-ups they were fed
from long troughs much the same as little pigs. Each was given a spoon
at meal time and then all of the food was dumped into the trough at the
same time.

The week day diet for the most part consisted of meats and
vegetables–“sometimes we even got chicken an’ turkey”–says Mr. Orford.
Coffee was made by parching meal or corn and then boiling it in water.
None of the slaves ever had to steal anything to eat on the Orford
plantation.”

[Richard Orford, Part III, Georgia]

“Did dey pay us any money? Lawsy, Lady! What for? Us didn’t need no
money. Ole Marster and Ole Miss all time give us plenty good sompin’
teat, and clo’es, and dey let us sleep in a good cabin, but us did have
money now and den. A heap of times us had nickles and dimes. Dey had
lots of comp’ny at Ole Marster’s, and us allus act mighty spry waitin’
on ’em, so dey would ‘member us when dey lef’. Effen it wuz money dey
gimme, I jes’ couldn’t wait to run to de sto’ and spend it for candy.”

“You see I didn’t have to save up for nuffin’. Ole Marster and Ole Miss,
dey took keer of us. Dey sho’ wuz good white folkses, but den dey had to
be good white folkses, kaze Ole Marster, he wuz Jedge Lumpkin, and de
Jedge wuz bound to make evvybody do right, and he gwine do right his own
self ‘fore he try to make udder folkses behave deyselvs. Ain’t nobody,
nowhar, as good to dey Negroes as my white folkses wuz.”

“Who taught you to say ‘Negroes’ so distinctly?” she was asked.

“Ole Marster,” she promptly answered, “He ‘splained dat us wuz not to be
‘shamed of our race. He said us warn’t no ‘niggers’; he said us wuz
‘Negroes’, and he ‘spected his Negroes to be de best Negroes in de whole
land.

“Old Marster had a big fine gyarden. His Negroes wukked it good, and us
wuz sho’ proud of it. Us lived close in town, and all de Negroes on de
place wuz yard and house servants. Us didn’t have no gyardens ’round our
cabins, kaze all of us et at de big house kitchen. Ole Miss had flowers
evvywhar ’round de big house, and she wuz all time givin’ us some to
plant ’round de cabins.

“All de cookin’ wuz done at de big house kitchen, and hit wuz a sho’
‘nough big kitchen. Us had two boss cooks, and lots of helpers, and us
sho’ had plenny of good sompin’ teat. Dat’s de Gawd’s trufe, and I means
it. Heap of folkses been tryin’ to git me to say us didn’t have ‘nough
teat and dat us never had nuffin’ fittin’ teat. But ole as I is, I cyan’
start tellin’ no lies now. I gotter die fo’ long, and I sho’ wants to be
clean in de mouf and no stains or lies on my lips when I dies. Our
sompin’ teat wuz a heap better’n what us got now. Us had plenny of
evvything right dar in de yard. Chickens, ducks, geese, guineas,
tukkeys, and de smoke’ouse full of good meat. Den de mens, dey wuz all
time goin’ huntin’, and fetchin’ in wild tukkeys, an poddiges, and heaps
and lots of ‘possums and rabbits. Us had many fishes as us wanted. De
big fine shads, and perch, and trouts; dem wuz de fishes de Jedge liked
mos’. Catfishes won’t counted fittin’ to set on de Jedges table, but us
Negroes wuz ‘lowed to eat all of ’em us wanted. Catfishes mus’ be mighty
skace now kaze I don’t know when ever I is seed a good ole river catfish
a-flappin’ his tail. Dey flaps dey tails atter you done kilt ’em, and
cleaned ’em, and drap ’em in de hot grease to fry. Sometimes dey nigh
knock de lid offen de fryin’ pan.”

[Anna Parkes, Part III, Georgia]

“The cotton raised was woven into cloth from which their clothing was
made. “We had plenty of good clothing and food,” Pattillo continued.
“The smokehouse was never locked and we had free access to the whole
house. We never knew the meaning of a key.”

[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]

“Us sho’ had plenty somepin’ t’eat, sich as meat, and cornbread, and
good old wheat bread what wuz made out of seconds. Dere wuz lots of
peas, corn, cabbage, Irish ‘tatoes, sweet ‘tatoes, and chickens,
sometimes. Yes Ma’am, sometimes. I laks coffee, but us Niggers didn’t
have much coffee. Dat wuz for de white folkses at de big house. Cookin’
wuz done in de fireplace in great big spiders. Some of de biggest of de
spiders wuz called ovens. Dey put coals of fire underneath and more
coals on top of de lid. Ma baked bread and ‘taters in de ashes. In
winter she put de dough in a collard leaf so it wouldn’t burn. In summer
green corn shucks wuz wrapped ’round de dough ‘stid of collard leaves.
All de fish and ‘possums and rabbits us had wuz cotch right dar on Old
Marster’s place, ’cause if one of our Niggers got cotch offen our place
hit wuz jes’ too bad. I sho’ does love ‘possum, and us had lots of ’em,
’cause my brudder used to ketch ’em by de wholesale wid a dog he had,
and dat same dog wuz a powerful good rabbit hound too.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“In the same manner that clothing was plentiful so was there always
enough food. When Mrs. Price was asked if the slaves owned by Mr. Kennon
were permitted to cultivate a garden of their own she stated that they
did’nt need to do this because of the fact that Mr. Kennon raised
everything that was necessary and they often had more than enough. Their
week-day diet usually consisted of fried meat, grits, syrup and corn
bread for breakfast; vegetables, pot liquor or milk, and corn bread for
dinner; and for supper there was milk and bread or fried meat and bread.
On Sunday they were given a kind of flour commonly known as the
“seconds” from which biscuits were made. “Sometimes”, continued Mrs.
Price, “my mother brought us the left-overs from the master’s table and
this was usually a meal by itself”. In addition to this Mr. Kennon
allowed hunting as well as fishing and so on many days there were fish
and roast ‘possum. Food on the elder Mr. Kennon plantation was just as
scarce as it was plentiful on his son’s. When asked how she knew about
this Mrs. Price told how she had seen her father take meat from his
master’s smoke house and hide it so that he could give it to those
slaves who invaribly slipped over at night in search of food. The elder
Mr. Kennon had enough food but he was too mean to see his slaves enjoy
themselves by having full stomachs.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“Plenty of food was raised on the Ealey plantation, but the slave
families were restricted to the same diet of corn meal, syrup, and fat
bacon. Children were fed “pot likker”, milk and bread from poplar
troughs, from which they ate with wooden spoons. Grown-ups ate with
wooden forks. Slaves were not allowed to raise gardens of their own,
although Mr. Pye’s uncle was given the privilege of owning a rice patch,
which he worked at night.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“This plantation was large and raised everything–corn, wheat, cotton,
“taters”, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, rice, sugar cane, horses, mules,
goats, sheep, and hogs. They kept all that was needed to feed the slaves
then sent the surplus to Savannah by the “Curz”. The stage took
passengers, but the “Curz” was 40 or 50 wagons that took the farm
surplus to Savannah, and “fetched back things for de house.”

Mr. Neal “traded” with Dr. by the year and whenever the slaves were hurt
or sick he had to come “tend” to them. He gave the families their food
by the month, but if it gave out all they had to do was to ask for more
and he always gave it to them. They had just as good meals during the
week as on Sunday, any kind of meat out of the smoke house, chickens,
squabs, fresh beef, shoats, sheep, biscuits or cornbread, rice,
potatoes, beans, syrup and any garden vegetables. Sometimes they went
fishing to add to their menu.”

[Shade Richards, Part III, Georgia]

“My marster had over a thousand acres o’ land. He was good to us. We had
plenty to eat, like meat and bread and vegetables. We raised eve’ything
on de plantation–wheat, corn, potatoes, peas, hogs, cows, sheep,
chickens–jes’ eve’ything.

“De marsters let de slaves have little patches o’ lan’ for deyse’ves. De
size o’ de patch was ‘cordin’ to de size o’ yo’ family. We was ‘lowed
’bout fo’ acres. We made ’bout five hundred pounds o’ lint cotton, and
sol’ it at Warrenton. Den we used de money to buy stuff for Chris’man.”

[Ferebe Rogers, Part III, Georgia]

“All food on the colonel’s plantation was issued daily from the corn
house. Each person was given enough corn to make a sufficient amount of
bread for the day when ground. Then they went out and dug their potatoes
from the colonel’s garden. No meat whatsoever was issued. It was up to
the slaves to catch fish, oysters, and other sea food for their meat
supply. All those who desired to were permitted to raise chickens,
watermelons and vegetables. There was no restriction on any as to what
must be done with the produce so raised. It could be sold or kept for
personal consumption.

The food was almost the same here as it had been at the other
plantation. At the end of each week she and her fellow slaves were given
a “little bacon, vegetables, and some corn meal.”[HW: ?] This had to
last for a certain length of time. If it was all eaten before the time
for the next issue that particular slave had to live as best he or she
could. In such an emergency the other slaves usually shared with the
unfortunate one.”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“Did you always have enough to eat, and clothes to wear?”

“Yes ma’am, Marster put out a side uv meat and a barrul o’ meal and all
uv us would go and git our rations fur de week.”

“Suppose some one took more than his share, and the supply ran short.”

“Lawd Ma’am, we knowed better’n to do dat kinder thing. Eve’ybody, had
er garden patch an’ had plenty greens and taters and all dat kinder
thing. De cloth fur de slave close wuz all made on the place and Missis
see to mekkin’ all de close we wear.”

[Nancy Settles, Part III, Georgia]

“Marse Jeff Southerland was a pore man, but he fed us all us could eat
sich as turnips, cabbages, collards, green corn, fat meat, cornbread,
‘taters and sometimes chicken. Yes Ma’am, chicken dinners was sorter
special. Us didn’t have ’em too often. De cookin’ was all done at de big
house in a open fireplace what had a rack crost it dat could be pulled
out to take de pots off de fire. ‘Fore dey started cookin’, a fire was
made up ready and waitin’; den de pots of victuals was hung on de rack
and swung in de fireplace to bile. Baking was done in skillets. Us
cotched rabbits three and four at a time in box traps sot out in de plum
orchard. Sometimes us et ’em stewed wid dumplin’s and some times dey was
jus’ plain biled, but us laked ’em bes’ of all when dey was fried lak
chickens.

“Oh! dem ‘possums! How I wisht I had one right now. My pa used to ketch
40 or 50 of ’em a winter. Atter dey married, Ma had to stay on wid Marse
Jeff and Pa was ‘bliged to keep on livin’ wid Marster Marsh Sheets. His
marster give him a pass so dat he could come and stay wid Ma at night
atter his wuk was done, and he fetched in de ‘possums. Dey was baked in
de white folkses kitchen wid sweet ‘tatoes ‘roun’ ’em and was barbecued
sometimes. Us had fishes too what was mighty good eatin’. Dere warn’t
but one gyarden on de plantation.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“My Old Marster done larnt me how to gyarden. He allus made us
raise lots of gyarden sass such as: beans, peas, roas’in’ ears,
collards, turnip greens, and ingons (onions). For a fact, dere was jus’
’bout all de kinds of veg’tables us knowed anything ’bout dem days right
dar in our Marster’s big old gyarden. Dere was big patches of ‘taters,
and in dem wheatfields us growed enough to make bread for all de folks
on dat dere plantation. Us sho’ did have plenty of mighty good somepin
t’eat.

“Aunt Martha, she done de milkin’ and helped Aunt Nancy cook for de
slaves. Dey had a big long kitchen up at de big house whar de overseer
lived. De slaves what wuked in de field never had to do deir own
cookin’. It was all done for ’em in dat big old kitchen. Dey cooked some
of de victuals in big old washpots and dere was sho’ a plenty for all.
All de cookin’ was done in big fireplaces what had racks made inside to
hang pots on and dey had big old ovens for bakin’, and thick iron
skillets, and long-handled fryin’ pans. You jus’ can’t ‘magine how good
things was cooked dat way on de open fire. Nobody never had no better
hams and other meat dan our Marster kept in dem big old smokehouses, and
his slaves had meat jus’ lak white folks did. Dem cooks knowed dey had
to cook a plenty and have it ready when it was time for de slaves to
come in from de fields. Miss Ellen, she was the overseer’s wife, went
out in de kitchen and looked over evvything to see that it was all right
and den she blowed de bugle. When de slaves heared dat bugle, dey come
in a-singin’ from de fields. Dey was happy ’cause dey knowed Miss Ellen
had a good dinner ready for ’em.

“Us had water buckets, called piggens, what was made out of cedar and
had handles on de sides. Sometimes us sawed off little vinegar kegs and
put handles on ’em. Us loved to drink out of gourds. Dere was lots of
gourds raised evvy year. Some of ’em was so big dey was used to keep
eggs in and for lots of things us uses baskets for now. Dem little
gourds made fine dippers.

“Us had big ‘possum hunts, and us sho’ cotched a heap of ’em. De gals
cooked ’em wid ‘taters and dey jus’ made your mouth water. I sho’ wish I
had one now. Rabbits was good too. Marster didn’t ‘low no huntin’ wid
guns, so us jus’ took dogs when us went huntin’. Rabbits was kilt wid
sticks and rocks ‘cept when a big snow come. Dey was easy to track to
dey beds den, and us could jus’ reach in and pull ’em out. When us cotch
‘nough of ’em, us had big rabbit suppers.

Our chillun used to come bring my
dinner. Us had dem good old red peas cooked wid side meat in a pot in de
fireplace, and ashcake to go wid ’em. Dat was eatin’s. Julie would rake
out dem coals and kivver ’em wid ashes, and den she would wrop a pone of
cornbread dough in collard or cabbage leaves and put it on dem ashes and
rake more ashes over it. You had to dust off de bread ‘fore you et it,
but ashcake was mighty good, folks what lived off of it didn’t git sick
lak dey does now a-eatin’ dis white flour bread all de time. If us had
any peas left from dinner and supper, Julie would mash ’em up right
soft, make little cakes what she rolled in corn meal, and fry ’em for
breakfast. Dem sausage cakes made out of left-over peas was mighty fine
for breakfast.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“Lawdy! Missie, us had evvythin’ to eat; all kinds of greens, turnips,
peas, ‘tatoes, meat and chickens. Us wuz plumb fools ’bout fried chicken
and chicken stew, so Marster ‘lowed us to raise plenty of chickens, and
sometimes at night us Niggers would git together and have a hee old
time. No Ma’am, us didn’t have no gyardens. Us didn’t need none. Old
Marster give us all de vittuls us wanted. Missie, you oughta seed dem
big old iron spiders what dey cooked in. ‘Course de white folkses called
’em ovens. De biscuits and blackberry pies dey cooked in spiders, dey
wuz somethin’ else. Oh! don’t talk ’bout dem ‘possums! Makes me hongry
just to think ’bout ’em. One night when pa and me went ‘possum huntin’,
I put a ‘possum what us cotched in a sack and flung it ‘cross my back.
Atter us started home dat ‘possum chewed a hole in de sack and bit me
square in de back. I ‘member my pa had a little dog.” Here he stopped
talking and called a little black and white dog to him, and said: “He
wuz ’bout de size of dis here dog, and pa said he could natchelly
jus’ make a ‘possum de way he always found one so quick when us
went huntin’.” The old man sighed, and looking out across the field,
continued: “Atter slav’ry days, Niggers turned dey chilluns loose,
an’ den de ‘possums an’ rabbits most all left, and dere ain’t so many
fishes left in de rivers neither.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“De quarters was built away f’um de big ‘ouse. Dey was cabins made of
logs an’ dey all had dey own gardens whar dey raised all kinds of
vegetables an’ allus had plenny of hog meat. De cookin’ was done on a
big fireplace an’ in brick ovens. ‘Taters was baked in de ashes, an’ dey
sho’ was good.

“Dey had big times huntin’ an’ fishin’ w’en de wuk was over. Dey cotch
lots of ‘possums, an’ had big ‘possum suppers. De ‘possums was roasted
with plenny of ‘taters, butter an’ red pepper. Us would eat an’ dance
most of de night w’en us had a ‘possum supper.

“De rabbits was so bad in de gardens dat dey tuk white rags an’ tied ’em
on sticks stuck up in de ground. Rabbits woulden’ come ‘roun’ den, cyaze
dey was ‘fraid of dem white rags flyin’ on de sticks.”

[Georgia Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“We had enuff for anybody. Th’ vittles was cooked in great big pots over
th’ fire jest like they was cookin’ for stock. Peas in this pot, greens
in that one. Corn-bread was made up an’ put back in th’ husks an’ cooked
in th’ ashes. They called that a ash cake. Well, when ever’thing was
done th’ vittles was poured in a trough an’ we all et. We had spoons cut
out of wood that we et with. Thar was a big lake on th’ plantation whar
we could fish an’ they show was good when we had ’em for supper.
Sometimes we go huntin’ an’ then we had possum an’ squirrel to eat. Th’
possums was best of all.”

[Melvin Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“De biggest, bestest fireplace up at de big house was in de kitchen whar
Mammy done de cookin’. It had a great wide hearth wid four big swingin’
racks and four big old pots. Two of de ovens was big and two was little.
Dat was better cookin’ ‘rangements and fixin’s dan most of de other
white folks in dis town had den. When dat fire got good and hot and dere
was plenty of ashes, den Mammy started cookin’ ash cakes and ‘taters.
One of Mammy’s good ash-roasted ‘taters would be awful good right now
wid some of dat good old home-made butter to go wid it. Marster allus
kept jus’ barrels and barrels of good old home-made ‘lasses sirup,
’cause he said dat was what made slave chilluns grow fast and be strong.
Folks don’t know how to have plenty of good things to eat lak us had
den. Jus’ think of Marse Joe’s big old plantation down nigh de Georgia
Railroad whar he raised our somepin’ t’eat: vegetables sich as green
corn, ‘taters, cabbages, onions, collards, turnip greens, beans,
peas–more than I could think up all day–and dere was plenty of wheat,
rye, and corn for our bread.

“Out dar de pastur’s was full of cows, hogs and sheep, and dey raised
lots of chickens and turkeys on dat farm. Dey clipped wool from dem
sheep to weave wid de cotton when dey made cloth for our winter clothes.”

[Nancy Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Slaves slept in log cabins what had rock chimblies at the end. The
rocks was put together with red clay. All the slaves was fed at the big
house kitchen. The fireplace, where they done the cookin’, was so big it
went ‘most across one end of that big old kitchen. It had long swingin’
cranes to hang the pots on, and there was so many folks to cook for at
one time that often there was five or six pots over the fire at the same
time. Them pots was large too–not lak the little cookin’ vessels we use
these days. For the bakin’, they had all sizes of ovens. Now Child, let
me tell you, that was good eatin’. Folks don’t take time enough to cook
right now; They are always in too big a hurry to be doin’ something else
and don’t cook things long enough. Back in dem days they put the
vegetables on to cook early in the mornin’ and biled ’em ’til they was
good and done. The biggest diffunce I see is that folks didn’t git sick
and stay sick with stomach troubles then half as much as they does now.
When my grandma took a roast out of one of them old ovens it would be
brown and juicy, with lots of rich, brown gravy. Sweet potatoes baked
and browned in the pan with it would taste mighty fine too. With some of
her good biscuits, that roast meat, brown gravy, and potatoes, you had
food good enough for anybody. I just wish I could taste some more of it
one more time before I die.

“Why, Child, two of the best cake-makers I ever knew used them old ovens
for bakin’ the finest kinds of pound cakes and fruit cakes, and evvybody
knows them cakes was the hardest kinds to bake we had in them days. Aunt
Betsey Cole was a great cake-baker then. She belonged to the Hulls, what
lived off down below here somewhere but, when there was to be a big
weddin’ or some ‘specially important dinner in Athens, folks ‘most
always sent for Aunt Betsey to bake the cakes. Aunt Laura McCrary was a
great cake-maker too; she baked the cake for President Taft when he was
entertained at Mrs. Maggie Welch’s home here.

“In them days you didn’t have to be runnin’ to the store evvy time you
wanted to cook a extra good meal; folks raised evvything they needed
right there at home. They had all the kinds of vegetables they knowed
about then in their own gardens, and there was big fields of corn, rye,
and wheat. Evvy big plantation raised its own cows for plenty of milk
and butter, as well as lots of beef cattle, hogs, goats, and sheep.
‘Most all of ’em had droves of chickens, geese, and turkeys, and on our
place there were lots of peafowls. When it was goin’ to rain them old
peafowls set up a big holler. I never knew rain to fail after them
peafowls started their racket.”

[Nellie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

“Folkses raised deir livin’, all of it, at home den. Dey growed all
sorts of gyarden truck sech as corn, peas, beans, sallet, ‘taters,
collards, ingons, and squashes. Dey had big fields of grain. Don’t
forgit dem good old watermillions; Niggers couldn’t do widout ’em.
Marster’s old smokehouse was plumb full of meat all de time, and he had
more cows, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, geese, and de lak, dan
I ever larnt how to count. Dere warn’t no runnin’ off to de sto’ evvy
time dey started cookin’ a company meal.”

[Paul Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[John Van Hook, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Emma Virgel, Part IV, Georgia]

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

1 pk. meal on Sunday

1 qt. syrup flour (seconds)

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

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

[Rhoda Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

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

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Dink Young, Part IV, Georgia]

Georgia Plantation Slave Quarters

Georgia Plantation Slave Quarters

Slave Narratives are a collection of accounts taken by government workers assigned to go out in about the year 1937 and record the experiences of former slaves before they had all passed away. This work was done under the Work Projects Administration, an agency of the United States government, brought into being by President Roosevelt during his administration. There are many more states where this work was done and many more slave narratives but my research to date has only included South Carolina and Georgia. For a substantial collection of the slave narratives go to Gutenberg Project under Work Projects Administration for further accounts.

What follows are accounts by former slaves from Georgia describing in their own words their living quarters as slaves. Keep in mind the accounts were based on memory and about 72 years had passed since they had had that experience. Of the broader list of slave narratives accounts (this list only includes interesting accounts from those who shared their stories about their experience) many could not remember the various things that had happened to them and some did not want to give their experience on various subjects.

“Us lived in mud-daubed log cabins what had old stack chimblies made out
of sticks and mud. Our old home-made beds didn’t have no slats or metal
springs neither. Dey used stout cords for springs. De cloth what dey
made the ticks of dem old hay mattresses and pillows out of was so
coarse dat it scratched us little chillun most to death, it seemed lak
to us dem days. I kin still feel dem old hay mattresses under me now.
Evvy time I moved at night it sounded lak de wind blowin’ through dem
peach trees and bamboos ’round de front of de house whar I lives now.”

[Rachael Adams, Part I, Georgia]

“The homes provided for the slaves were two room log cabins which had one
door and one window. These homes were not built in a group together but
were more or less scattered over the plantation. Slave homes were very
simple and only contained a home made table, chair and bed which were
made of the same type of wood and could easily be cleaned by scouring
with sand every Saturday. The beds were bottomed with rope which was run
backward and forward from one rail to the other. On this framework was
placed a mattress of wheat straw. Each spring the mattresses were
emptied and refilled with fresh wheat straw.”

[Celestia Avery, Part I, Georgia]

“De long, log houses what us lived in was called “shotgun” houses ’cause
dey had three rooms, one behind de other in a row lak de barrel of a
shotgun. All de chillun slept in one end room and de grown folkses slept
in de other end room. De kitchen whar us cooked and et was de middle
room. Beds was made out of pine poles put together wid cords. Dem
wheat-straw mattresses was for grown folkses mostly ’cause nigh all de
chillun slept on pallets. How-some-ever, dere was some few slave chillun
what had beds to sleep on. Pillows! Dem days us never knowed what
pillows was. Gals slept on one side of de room and boys on de other in
de chilluns room. Uncle Jim, he was de bed-maker, and he made up a heap
of little beds lak what dey calls cots now.”

[Georgia Baker, Part I, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was log cabins built in long rows. Some had chimblies in
de middle, twixt two rooms, but de most of ’em was jus’ one-room cabins
wid a stick and mud chimbly at de end. Dem chimblies was awful bad ’bout
ketchin’ on fire. Didn’t nobody have no glass windows. Dey jus’ had
plain plank shutters for blinds and de doors was made de same way, out
of rough planks. All de beds was home-made and de best of ’em was
corded. Dey made holes in de sides and foots and haidpieces, and run
heavy home-made cords in dem holes. Dey wove ’em crossways in and out of
dem holes from one side to another ’til dey had ’em ready to lay de
mattress mat on. I’se helped to pull dem cords tight many a time. Our
mattress ticks was made of homespun cloth and was stuffed wid wheat
straw. ‘Fore de mattress tick was put on de bed a stiff mat wove out of
white oak splits was laid on top of de cords to pertect de mattress and
make it lay smooth. Us was ‘lowed to pick up all de old dirty cotton
’round de place to make our pillows out of.”

[Jasper Battle, Part I, Georgia]

“When asked to describe the living quarters of the slaves on his
plantation he looked around his room and muttered: “Dey wuz a lot better
than dis one.” Some of the cabins were made of logs and some of
weatherboards. The chinks in the walls were sealed with mud. In some
instances boards were used on the inside to keep the weather out. There
were usually two windows, shutters being used in the place of window
panes. The chimney and fireplace were made of mud and stones. All
cooking was done at the fireplace as none of them were provided with
stoves. Iron cooking utensils were used. To boil food a pot was hung
over the fire by means of a hook. The remaining furniture was a bench
which served as a chair, and a crude bed. Rope running from side to side
served as bed springs. The mattress was made of straw or hay. For
lighting purposes, pine knots and candles were used. The slaves on the
Coxton plantation were also fortunate in that all cabins had good
floors. All cabins and their furnishings were built by the slaves who
learned the use of hammer and saw from white artisans whom Mr. Coxton
employed from time to time. Mr. Bland remarked that his father was a
blacksmith, having learned the trade in this manner.”

[Henry Bland, Part I, Georgia]

“We stayed in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor. A frame made
outen pine poles was fastened to the wall to hold up the mattresses. Our
mattresses was made outen cotton bagging stuffed with wheat straw. Our
kivers was quilts made outen old clothes. Slave ‘omens too old to work
in the fields made the quilts.”

[James Bolton, Part I, Georgia]

“‘Bout de beds, Nigger boys didn’t pay no ‘tention to sich as dat ’cause
all dey keered ’bout wuz a place to sleep but ‘peers lak to me dey wuz
corded beds, made wid four high posties, put together wid iron pegs, an’
holes what you run de cords thoo’, bored in de sides. De cords wuz made
out of b’ar grass woun’ tight together. Dey put straw an’ old quilts on
’em, an’ called ’em beds.”

[Alec Bostwick, Part I, Georgia

“I don’t know much ’bout slave quarters, or what dey had in ’em, ’cause
I wuz raised in de house wid de white folkses. I does know beds in de
quarters wuz lak shelves. Holes wuz bored in de side of de house, two in
de wall and de floor, and poles runnin’ from de wall and de floor,
fastened together wid pegs; on ’em dey put planks, and cross de foot of
de bed dey put a plank to hold de straw and keep de little ‘uns from
fallin’ out.”

[Easter Brown, Part I, Georgia]

“Houses on the Byrd Plantation were made of logs and the cracks were
daubed with mud. The chimnies were made of mud and supported by sticks.

Each fireplace varied in length from 3 to 4 feet because they serve the
purpose of stoves; and the family meals were prepared in those large
fireplaces often two and three pots were suspended from a rod running
across the fireplace. Most of the log houses consisted of one room;
however if the family was very large two rooms were built. The
furnishings consisted only of a home-made table, benches, and a
home-made bed, the mattress of which was formed by running ropes from
side to side forming a framework. Mattresses were made by filling a tick
with wheatstraw. The straw was changed each season. Laughing Mrs. Byrd
remarked, “Yessirree, them houses wuz warmer than some are ter day.”

[Sarah Byrd, Part I, Georgia]

“Slave homes on the Willis plantation differed in no respect from the
usual type found elsewhere. All homes were simple log cabins grouped
together, forming what is known as slave quarters.”

[Mariah Callaway, Part I, Georgia]

“All de slave quarters wuz log cabins and little famblies had cabins wid
jes’ one room. Old Marster sho’ did want to see lots of chilluns ’round
de cabins and all de big famblies wuz ‘lowed to live in two-room cabins.
Beds for slaves wuz made by nailing frames, built out of oak or walnut
planks to de sides of de cabins. Dey had two or three laigs to make ’em
set right, and de mattresses wuz filled wid wheat straw.”

[Willis Cofer, Part I, Georgia]

“Lord bless your life, Honey! We didn’t live in log cabins, as you call
them. There were two slave houses. The one Aggie lived in was two-story,
the other one had just one story and they were both weatherboarded like
Marse John’s own house. The grown folks slept on beds made with tall oak
posts. There were no metal springs then and the beds were corded
instead. The straw-stuffed mattress ticks were made with plain and
striped material, and pillows were filled with cotton. We children slept
on trundle beds, which were pushed up under the big beds in the daytime,
and pulled out for us to sleep on at night.”

[Mary Colbert, Part I, Georgia]

“Our beds had big home-made posties and frames, and us used ropes for
springs. Grandma brought her feather bed wid her from Virginny, and she
used to piece up a heap of quilts outen our ole clo’es and any kind of
scraps she could get a holt of. I don’t know what de others had in dey
cabins ’cause ma didn’t ‘low her chillun to visit ’round de other
folkses none.”

[Martha Colquitt, Part I, Georgia]

“The slave quarters were located a short distance below the mansion. The
cabins one-roomed weatherboard structures were arranged so as to form a
semi-circle. There was a wide tree-lined road leading from the master’s
home to these cabins.

Furnishings of each cabin consisted of one or two benches, a bed, and a
few cooking utensils. These were very crude, especially the beds. Some
of them had four posts while the ends of others were nailed to the
walls. All lumber used in their construction was very heavy and rough.
Bed springs were unheard of–wooden slats being used for this purpose.
The mattresses were large ausenberg bags stuffed to capacity with hay,
straw, or leaves. Uncle Mose told about one of the slaves, named Ike,
whose entire family slept on bare pine straw. His children were among
the fattest on the plantation and when Colonel Davis tried to make him
put this straw in a bag he refused claiming that the pine needles kept
his children healthy.

The floors and chimneys on the Davis Plantation were made of wood and
brick instead of dirt and mud as was the case on many of the other
surrounding plantations. One window (with shutters instead of window
panes) served the purpose of ventilation and light. At night pine knots
or candles gave light. The little cooking that the slaves did at home
was all done at the open fireplace.

Near the living quarters was a house known as the “chillun house.” All
children too young for field work stayed at this house in the care of
the older slave women. There was no hospital building on the premises.
The sick had to remain in their individual cabins where they too were
cared for by slaves too old for field work.

Only one family lived in a cabin. Mose’s mother and father each had a
separate cabin. He did not explain the reason for this but said that he
was made to live in his father’s cabin. Whenever he could, (usually when
his father was away with the Colonel for a day or two) he stayed in his
mothers cabin. “The only difference between the houses we lived in
during slavery and those that some of us live in now who said is that we
had more room there than we have now.” He says that even the community
cook house was larger than some of the living quarters of today. All
cabins were white washed the same as the other buildings on the
plantation, and the occupants were required to keep the interiors and
the surrounding clean at all times. The overseer’s cabin was located a
short distance away from the slave cabins, so that it would be easier
for him to keep check on his charges.”

[Mose Davis, Part I, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in log cabins what had red mud daubed in de cracks ‘twixt
de logs. De roofs was made out of boards what had so many cracks ‘twixt
’em, atter a few rains made ’em swink (shrink), dat us could lay in bed
and see de stars through dem big holes. Even if us did have leaky
houses, folkses didn’t git sick half as much as dey does now. Our
homemade beds was made out of rough planks nailed to high poles;
leastways de poles was high for de headpieces, and a little lower for de
footpieces. For most of dem beds, planks was nailed to de wall for one
long side and dere was two laigs to make it stand straight on de other
long side. Dey never seed no metal springs dem days but jus’ wove cords
back and forth, up and down and across, to lay de mattress on. I never
seed no sto’-bought bed ’til atter I was married. Bedticks was made out
of homespun cloth stuffed wid wheatstraw, and sometimes dey slept on rye
or oatstraw. Pillows was stuffed wid hay what had a little cotton mixed
in it sometimes. Atter a long day of wuk in de fields, nobody bothered
’bout what was inside dem pillows. Dey slept mighty good lak dey was.
Dey fixed planks to slide across de inside of de holes dey cut out for
windows. De doors swung on pegs what tuk de place of de iron hinges dey
uses dese days. Dem old stack chimblies was made out of sticks and red
mud.”

[Bennie Dillard, Part I, Georgia]

“The cabins that the slaves occupied were located on one section of the
plantation known as the “quarters.” These dwellings were crude
one-roomed structures usually made from logs. In order to keep the
weather out mud was used to close the openings between the logs. In
most instances the furnishing of a cabin was complete after a bed, a
bench (both of which were made by the slave) and a few cooking utensils
had been placed in it. As there were no stoves for slave use all cooking
was done at the fireplace, which, like the chimney, was made of mud and
stones. One or two openings served the purpose of windows, and shutters
were used instead of glass. The mattresses on which they slept were made
from hay, grass or straw. When a light was needed a tallow candle or a
pine knot was lighted.”

[George Eason, Part I, Georgia]

“Our log cabins what us lived in was daubed inside and out wid mud to
keep out bad weather. Our beds was held together by cords what was
twisted evvy which way. You had to be mighty careful tightenin’ dem
cords or de beds was liable to fall down. Us slept on wheat straw
mattresses and had plenty of good warm quilts for kiver.”

[Callie Elder, Part I, Georgia]

“There were two one-roomed cabins located directly behind the four-roomed
house of the “Widow,” the entire lot of them were built out of logs.
These two cabins were for the use of those servants who worked in the
house of their owner. At one end of each cabin there was a wide
fireplace which was made of sticks, stones, and dried mud. Instead of
windows there were only one or two small holes cut in the back wall of
the cabin. The beds were made out of heavy planks and were called
“Georgia Looms,” by the slaves. Wooden slats were used in the place of
bed springs while the mattresses were merely large bags that had been
stuffed to capacity with hay, wheat straw, or leaves. The only other
furnishings in each of these cabins were several benches and a few
cooking utensils. Mr. Favors says: “We didn’t have plank floors like
these on some of the other plantations; the plain bare ground served as
our floor.” As he made this statement he reminded this worker that he
meant his mother and some of the other house servants lived in these
cabins. He himself always lived in the house with the “Widow Favors,”
who had provided a comfortable bed along with a small chair for his use.
These slaves who worked in the fields lived in several cabins that were
somewhat nearer to their fields than the other two cabins mentioned
above.

The remaining buildings on the Favors’ plantation were the smokehouse
and the cook house where in addition to the cooking the younger children
were cared for by another old person. The woman who cared for these
children had to also help with the cooking.”

[Lewis Favor, Part I, Georgia]

“I knows us lived
in log houses what had great big chimblies made out of sticks and mud.
Why, dem fireplaces was ’bout eight feet wide, and you could put a whole
stick of cord wood on de fire. Us slept on high-up old timey beds what
had big posties and instead of springs, dey had stout cords wove ‘cross
to hold de mattress. De last time I slept on one of dem sort of beds was
when I was a little boy, sleepin’ wid my Ma. Pa and Ma was both field
hands. Ma’s mammy was de onliest one of my grandmas I ever seed. Her
name was Ca’line and she lived wid Grandpa Abe on another plantation.
Ma’s sister, my aunt Ca’line was cook up at our Old Marster’s big house.”

[Anderson Furr, Part I, Georgia]

“Us lived in log huts. Evvy hut had a entry in de middle, and a mud
chimbly at each end. Us slep’ in beds what was ‘tached to de side of de
hut, and dey was boxed up lak wagon bodies to hold de corn shucks and de
babies in. Home-made rugs was put on top of de shucks for sheets, and de
kivver was de same thing.”

[Elisha Doc Garey, Part II, Georgia]

“Us lived in a long house dat had a flat top and little rooms made like
mule stalls, just big enough for you to git in and sleep. Dey warn’t no
floors in dese rooms and neither no beds. Us made beds out of dry grass,
but us had cover ’cause de real old people, who couldn’t do nothin’
else, made plenty of it. Nobody warn’t ‘lowed to have fires, and if dey
wuz caught wid any dat meant a beatin’. Some would burn charcoal and
take de coals to deir rooms to help warm ’em. Every pusson had a tin
pan, tin cup, and a spoon. Everybody couldn’t eat at one time, us had
’bout four different sets. Nobody had a stove to cook on, everybody
cooked on fire places and used skillets and pots. To boil us hung pots
on racks over de fire and baked bread and meats in de skillets.”

[Leah Garrett, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in rough little log huts daubed wid mud and de chimblys
was made out of sticks and red mud. Mammy said dat atter de slaves had
done got through wid deir day’s work and finished eatin’ supper, dey all
had to git busy workin’ wid cotton. Some carded bats, some spinned and
some weaved cloth. I knows you is done seen dis here checkidy cotton
homespun–dat’s what dey weaved for our dresses. Dem dresses was made
tight and long, and dey made ’em right on de body so as not to waste
none of de cloth. All slaves had was homespun clothes and old heavy
brogan shoes.

“Slaves lived in mud-daubed log huts what had chimblies made out of
sticks and mud. Lordy Honey! Dem beds was made wid big high posties and
strung wid cords for springs. Folks never had no wire bedsprings dem
days. Our mattresses was wheat straw put in ticks made out of coarse
cloth what was wove on de loom right dar on de plantation.”

[Alice Green, Part II, Georgia]

“His slave quarters were made up of rows of 2-room log cabins with a
different family occupying each room. The fireplaces were built three
and four feet in length purposely for cooking. The furniture, consisting
of a bed, table, and chair, was made from pine wood and kept clean by
scouring with sand. New mattresses and pillows were made each spring
from wheat straw.”

[Isaiah Green, Part II, Georgia]

“One and two roomed log cabins were found on practically all the
plantations. The number of rooms depended upon the number in the family.
Sometimes one room would contain three and four bed scaffolds, so called
by Mr. Hammond because of their peculiar construction. Some beds were
nailed to the walls and all of them were built with roped bottoms. Home
made tables and benches completed the furnishings of a slave home. There
were no stoves, large fireplaces, five to six feet in length, served the
purpose of stoves for cooking. Cooking utensils including an oven and
very large pots were found in every home. Wooden plates and spoons were
used on some plantations.”

[Milton Hammond, Part II, Georgia]

“All de houses in de slave quarters was log cabins ‘cept two. Dey was
made of boards what was put on straight up and down. All de houses had
chimblies made out of mud and sticks. De beds had high posties and some
of ’em was nailed to de wall of de cabin. Dey didn’t know nothin’ ’bout
no wire springs den, and dey strung de beds wid heavy cords for springs.
Dey made mattress ticks out of coarse home-wove cloth; some was striped
and some was plain unbleached white. Atter de wheat was thrashed evvy
year de ‘omans tuk deir ticks and emptied out de old straw and went and
filled ’em wid new wheat straw. Wisht I had a nice fresh made wheat
straw mattress now. Us had plenty of good quilts for kivver.”

[Dosia Harris, Part II, Georgia]

“Slaves lived in one-room log cabins dat had rock chimblies, and each
cabin had one little window wid a wooden shutter dey fastened at night
and in bad weather. Deir beds was made out of pine poles fastened to de
sides of dem old beds ‘teesters,’ ’cause de posties was so high. Ropes
or cords was criss-crossed to hold ’em together and to take de place of
springs. Nobody hadn’t ever saw no iron springs on beds dem days. Dem
big old ticks was generally filled wid wheat straw, but sometimes slaves
was ‘lowed to pick up waste cotton and wash, dry, and card it to stuff
deir bed-ticks wid. But Missy, dat was jus’ too much trouble when a good
old straw tick slept so fine. Cheers was made out of oak splits, and
cane and rye plaits was used for de cheer-bottoms. Dem old cheers sot
mighty good and lasted a lifetime.”

[Bill Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“The slave’s cabins were constructed of rough-hewn logs, with the cracks
daubed with mud and, as Emmaline recalled it, were very warm; warmer, in
fact, than many of their houses are today. The furniture consisted of a
“corded” bed, wooden tables and benches. This “corded” bed was
constructed by running rope or cord from the head to the foot and then
from side to side. A wooden peg was driven into the holes to hold the
cord in place. Pegs were a household necessity and had to be cared for
just as a key is today. Most homes also included a quilt slab, a sort of
table used to place quilts on, as a necessary part of the furniture.”

[Emmaline Heard, Part II, Georgia]

“The Henderson slave houses were of the one-room log type, with one
window and one door; each cabin was furnished with a bed, chair, and
table. Large fireplaces took the place of stoves for cooking. These were
constructed four or five feet in width so that one or two pots or a side
of meat could be suspended from a hook which was fastened on a rack in
the stick and dirt chimney.”

[Benjamin Henderson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was off from the big house a piece, and they was built
in rows lak streets. Most of the log cabins had one room; some had two,
but all of them had plain old stack chimblies made of sticks and red
mud. Our beds was just home-made makeshifts, but us didn’t know no
diffunce ’cause us never had seed no better ones. They sawed pine posts
the right height and bored holes through them and through the slabs they
had cut for the railin’s, or side pieces. They jined the bed together
with cords that they wove back and forth and twisted tight with a stout
stick. Them cords served two purposes; they held the bed together and
was our springs too, but if us warn’t mighty keerful to keep ’em twisted
tight our beds would fall down. Lak them old beds, the mattresses us had
them days warn’t much compared with what we sleeps on now. Them ticks
was made of coarse home-wove cloth, called ‘osnaburg,’ and they was
filled with straw. My! How that straw did squeak and cry out when us
moved, but the Blessed Lord changed all that when he gave us freedom and
let schools be sot up for us. With freedom Negroes soon got more
knowledge of how a home ought to be.”

[Jefferson Henry, Part II, Georgia]

“Us lived in log cabins scattered ’round de plantation. De biggest of
’em had two rooms and evvy cabin had a chimbly made out of sticks and
red mud. Most of de chillun slept on pallets on de floor, but I slept
wid my Pa and Ma ’cause I was so pettish. Most of de beds was made out
of poles, dis a-way: Dey bored two holes in de wall, wide apart as dey
wanted de bed, and in dese holes dey stuck one end of de poles what was
de side pieces. Dey sharpened de ends of two more poles and driv’ ’em in
de floor for de foot pieces and fastened de side pieces to ’em. Planks
was put acrost dis frame to hold a coarse cloth tick filled wid wheat
straw. Ma had a ruffle, what was called a foot bouncer, ’round de foot
of her bed. Beds up at de big house was a sight to see. Dey had high
posties and curtains over de top and ’round de bottom of deir beds. Dem
beds at de big house was so high dey had steps to walk up so dey could
git in ’em. Oh, dey was pretty, all kivvered over wid bob’ net to keep
flies and skeeters off de white folkses whilst dey slept!”

[Carrie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was laid out lak streets. Us lived in log cabins. Beds?
Dey was jus’ makeshift beds, what was made out of pine poles. De side of
de house was de head of de beds. De side rails was sharpened at both
ends and driv’ in holes in de walls and foot posties. Den dey put boards
‘cross de side rails for de mattresses to lay on. De coarse cloth bed
ticks was filled wid ‘Georgy feathers.’ Don’t you know what Georgy
feathers was? Wheat straw was Georgy feathers. Our kivver was sheets and
plenty of good warm quilts. Now dat was at our own quarters on Marse
David Bell’s plantation.”

“Didn’t evvybody have as good places to sleep as us. I ‘members a white
fambly named Sims what lived in Flatwoods. Dey was de porest white folks
I ever seed. Dey had a big drove of chillun and deir Pa never wukked a
lick in his life–He jus’ lived on other folkses’ labors. Deir little
log cabin had a partition in it, and ‘hind dat partition dere warn’t a
stitch of nothin’. Dey didn’t have no floor but de ground, and back
‘hind dat partition was dug out a little deeper dan in de rest of de
house. Dey filled dat place wid leaves and dat’s whar all de chilluns
slept. Evvy day Miss Sallie made ’em take out de leaves what dey had
slep’ on de night before and fill de dugout wid fresh leaves. On de
other side of de partition, Miss Sallie and her old man slept ‘long wid
deir hog, and hoss, and cow, and dat was whar dey cooked and et too. I
ain’t never gwine to forgit dem white folks.”

[Charlie Hudson, Part II, Georgia]

“The quarters consisted of poorly constructed cabins with worse
interiors. There were no beds, only bunks made of two poles balancing
sides nailed to the walls. Rags and old clothing served as a mattress
and the other furniture was equally bad.”

[Bryant Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Us slep’ on corded beds what had high postes and ruffled curtains
’round de foot. De beds what had curtains all ’round de top of dem high
postes was called teester beds. When all dem curtains was fresh washed
and starched, de beds sho’ did look grand. Chilluns slep’ on pallets on
de flo’.”

[Easter Huff, Part II, Georgia]

“Honey, dat old plantation was sho one big place. Back of de big house,
whar de overseer lived, was just rows and rows of slave cabins. Dey
stacked ’em up out of big logs jus’ lak dey made hog-pen fences. All de
cracks ‘twixt de logs was chinked up tight wid red mud and, let me tell
you, Honey, dey was keerful to lay on so much red mud over dem sticks
dat chimblies on our place never did ketch fire lak dey did on some of
de places whar dey done things sort of shiftless lak. Dem cabins had two
rooms and a shed room ‘crost de back whar day done de cookin’. Two
famblies lived in evvy cabin.”

[Lina Hunter, Part II, Georgia]

“Aunt Emma told of how the slaves had to live on the plantation and an
unpleasant story it was. There were no neat cabins all in a row making
up the “quarters” where the slaves lived. Instead they were made to live
around in any old hut they could find shelter in. Her mother and three
other women stayed in one room of the house the white family lived in.”

[Emma Hurley, Part II, Georgia]

“De place where de slaves lived wuz in de back o’ de white folks house.
Dey called it de “quarters”. Dere wuz lotsa log cabins kinda ‘ranged
‘roun in a sorta circle an’ all of ’em had big dirt chimneys on de
outside. De holes in de walls wuz stopped up wid dried mud to keep de
weather out. Fer furniture dey jes’ nailed up anything–dere wuz a bench
or two an’ a few boards nailed together fer a bed. De mattress wuz a big
tickin’ stuffed wid straw or dried grass. Some of de houses had big iron
pots so dat dey could cook if dey wanted to. De fireplaces wuz big ones
an’ dey had racks in de inside of ’em so dat de pots could hang dere
when dey wuz cookin’. De only light dat dey had wuz de firelight–don’t
care how hot it wuz–if you wanted to see you had to make a fire in de
fireplace. De floors in all de cabins wuz made wid wood.”

[Amanda Jackson, Part II, Georgia]

“Us sho’ did have a pretty place. De big house was painted white, and
dere was big old yards wid lots of flowers. De slave quarters was white
too. Dey was one room cabins built in long rows, way off f’um de big
house. Home-made beds was nailed to de wall and had just two laigs, and
de big ticks stuffed wid straw made dem beds moughty good places to
sleep.

“Most of de slaves et at de two long tables close by de kitchen up nigh
de big house. De kitchen warn’t built on to de big house, but hit sot
out in de yard a little piece. Dat’s de way evvybody had deir kitchens
built dem days.”

[Mahala Jewel, Part II, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was just one room log cabins what was built so de
corners come together to big old chimneys. Yessum, I ‘members dey just
had one big chimney to evvy four cabins. Dey cooked on de fireplace and
had pot racks for to hang de pots on, and ovens to bake in. Us sho’
could do ‘way wid a heap of sweet ‘tatoes what had done been roasted in
de ashes. Cabins was planked up on de inside and de outside was daubed
wid mud in de cracks to keep out de wind and rain. Our home-made beds,
nailed to de side of de cabins, had ticks filled wid wheat straw. White
folks had nice corded beds. Ma said hit was lots of trouble to keep dem
cords tight. Dey had hooks for to draw ’em up tight and den peg ’em down
wid wooden pegs.”

[Georgia Johnson, Part II, Georgia]

“The houses that they lived in were one-roomed structures made of heavy
plank instead of logs, with planer [HW: ?] floors. At one end of this
one-roomed cabin there was a large chimney and fireplace made of rocks,
mud, and dirt. In addition to the one door, there was a window at the
back. Only one family could live in a cabin as the space was so limited.
The furnishings of each cabin consisted of a bed and one or two chairs.
The beds were well constructed, a great deal better than some of the
beds the ex-slave saw during these days. Regarding mattresses she said,
“We took some tick and stuffed it with cotton and corn husks, which had
been torn into small pieces and when we got through sewing it looked
like a mattress that was bought in a store.

Light was furnished by lightwood torches and sometimes by the homemade
tallow candles. The hot tallow was poured into a candle mold, which was
then dipped into a pan of cold water, when the tallow had hardened, the
finished product was removed.”

[Jennie Kendricks, Part III, Georgia]

“Mammy lived in de old kitchen close by de big house ’til dere got to be
too many of us; den Marse Gerald built us a house jus’ a little piece
off from de big house. It was jus’ a log house, but Marster had all dem
cracks chinked tight wid red mud, and he even had one of dem
franklin-back chimblies built to keep our little cabin nice and warm.
Why, Child, ain’t you never seed none of dem old chimblies? Deir backs
sloped out in de middle to throw out de heat into de room and keep too
much of it from gwine straight up de flue. Our beds in our cabin was
corded jus’ lak dem up at de big house, but us slept on straw ticks and,
let me tell you, dey sho slept good atter a hard days’s wuk.”

[Nicey Kinney, Part III, Georgia]

“De log cabins what de slaves lived in was off a piece from de big
house. Dem cabins had rock chimblies, put together wid red mud. Dere
warn’t no glass in de windows and doors of dem cabins–jus’ plain old
home-made wooden shutters and doors.” Julia laughed as she told of their
beds. “Us called ’em four posters, and dat’s what dey was, but dey was
jus’ plain old pine posties what one of de men on de plantation made up.
Two posties at de head and two at de foot wid pine rails betwixt ’em was
de way dey made dem beds. Dere warn’t no sto’-bought steel springs dem
days, not even for de white folks, but dem old cord springs went a long
ways towards makin’ de beds comfortable and dey holped to hold de bed
together. De four poster beds de white folks slept on was corded too,
but deir posties warn’t made out of pine. Dey used oak and walnut and
sometimes real mahogany, and dey carved ’em up pretty. Some of dem big
old posties to de white folkses beds was six inches thick.”

[Julia Larken, Part III, Georgia]

“The slaves living quarters were located in the rear of the “big house”
(this was true of the plantation located in Pensacola as well as the one
in Georgia). All were made of logs and, according to Mr. Lewis, all were
substantially built. Wooden pegs were used in the place of nails and the
cracks left in the walls were sealed with mud and sticks. These cabins
were very comfortable and only one family was allowed to a cabin. All
floors were of wood. The only furnishings were the beds and one or two
benches or bales which served as chairs. In some respects these beds
resembled a scaffold nailed to the side of a house. Others were made of
heavy wood and had four legs to stand upon. For the most part, however,
one end of the bed was nailed to the wall. The mattresses were made out
of any kind of material that a slave could secure, burlap sacks,
ausenberg, etc. After a large bag had been made with this material it
was stuffed with straw. Heavy cord running from side to side was used
for the bed springs. The end of the cord was tied to a handle at the end
of the bed. This pemitted the occupant to tighten the cord when it
became loosened. A few cooking utensils completed the furnishings. All
illumination was secured by means of the door and the open fire place.”

[George Lewis, Part III, Georgia]

“Slave quarters was lots of log cabins wid chimlies of criss-crossed
sticks and mud. Pore white folks lived in houses lak dat too. Our bed
was made wid high posties and had cords, what run evvy which a-way, for
springs. ‘Course dey had to be wound tight to keep dem beds from fallin’
down when you tried to git in ’em. For mattresses, de ‘omans put wheat
straw in ticks made out of coarse cloth wove right dar on de plantation,
and de pillows was made de same way. Ole Miss, she let her special
favorite Niggers, what wuked up at de big house, have feather mattresses
and pillows. Dem other Niggers shined dey eyes over dat, but dere warn’t
nothin’ dey could do ’bout it ‘cept slip ’round and cut dem feather beds
and pillows open jus’ to see de feathers fly. Kivver was ‘lowanced out
evvy year to de ones what needed it most. In dat way dere was allus good
kivver for evvybody.”

[Ed McCree, Part III, Georgia]

“There were two one-room log cabins in the rear of the master’s house.
These cabins were dedicated to slave use. Mrs. McDaniel says: “The
floors were made of heavy wooden planks. At one end of the cabin was the
chimney which was made out of dried mud, sticks, and dirt. On the side
of the cabin opposite the door there was a window where we got a little
air and a little light. Our beds were made out of the same kind of wood
that the floors were and we called them “Bed-Stilts.” Slats were used
for springs while the mattresses were made of large bags stuffed with
straw. At night we used tallow candles for light and sometimes fat pine
that we called light-wood. As Mrs. Hale did all of our cooking we had
very few pots and pans. In the Winter months we used to take mud and
close the cracks left in the wall where the logs did not fit close
together.”

[Amanda McDaniel, Part III, Georgia]

“‘Bout our houses? Mistess, I’se gwine to tell you de trufe, dem houses
slaves had to live in, dey warn’t much, but us didn’t know no better
den. Dey was jus’ one-room log cabins wid stick and dirt chimblies. De
beds for slaves was home-made and was held together wid cords wove evvy
which away. If you didn’t tighten dem cords up pretty offen your bed was
apt to fall down wid you. Suggin sacks was sewed together to make our
mattress ticks and dem ticks was filled wid straw. Now, don’t tell me
you ain’t heared of suggin sacks a-fore! Dem was coarse sacks sort of
lak de guano sacks us uses now. Dey crowded jus’ as many Niggers into
each cabin as could sleep in one room, and marriage never meant a thing
in dem days when dey was ‘rangin’ sleepin’ quarters for slaves. Why, I
knowed a man what had two wives livin’ in de same cabin; one of dem
‘omans had all boys and t’other one didn’t have nothin’ but gals. It’s
nigh de same way now, but dey don’t live in de same house if a man’s got
two famblies.”

[William McWhorter, Part III, Georgia]

“Us had er right hard time in dem days. De beds us used den warn’t like
dese here nice beds us has nowadays. Don’t you laugh, Berry, I knows
dese beds us got now is ’bout to fall down,” Aunt Carrie admonished her
grandson when he guffawed at her statement, “You chilluns run erlong now
an’ git thoo’ wid dat cleanin’.” Aunt Carrie’s spirits seemed dampened
by Berry’s rude laugh and it was several minutes before she started
talking again. “Dese young folks don’t know nuthin’ ’bout hard times. Us
wukked in de ole days frum before sunup ’til black night an’ us knowed
whut wuk wuz. De beds us slep’ on had roun’ postes made outen saplins of
hickory or little pine trees. De bark wuz tuk off an’ dey wuz rubbed
slick an’ shiny. De sprangs wuz rope crossed frum one side uv de bed to
de udder. De mattress wuz straw or cotton in big sacks made outen
osnaberg or big salt sacks pieced tergether. Mammy didn’t have much soap
an’ she uster scrub de flo’ wid sand an’ it wuz jes ez white. Yas mam,
she made all de soap us used, but it tuk a heap. We’uns cooked in de
ashes an’ on hot coals, but de vittals tasted a heap better’n dey does
nowadays. Mammy had to wuk in de fiel’ an’ den cum home an’ cook fer
marster an’ his fambly. I didn’ know nuthin’ ’bout it ’till atter
freedom but I hyearn ’em tell ’bout it.”

[Aunt Carrie Mason, Part III, Georgia]

“In the rear of the master’s house was located the slave’s quarters. Each
house was made of logs and was of the double type so that two families
could be accommodated. The holes and chinks in the walls were daubed
with mud to keep the weather out. At one end of the structure was a
large fireplace about six feet in width. The chimney was made of dirt.

As for furniture Mr. Orford says: “You could make your own furniture if
you wanted to but ol’ marster would give you a rope bed an’ two or three
chairs an’ dat wus all. De mattress wus made out of a big bag or a
tickin’ stuffed wid straw–dat wus all de furniture in any of de
houses.”

[Richard Orford, Part III, Georgia]

“The master’s house, called the “Big House,” was a two-story frame
structure consisting of 10 rooms. Although not a mansion, it was fairly
comfortable. The home provided for Pattillo’s family was a three-room
frame house furnished comfortably with good home-made furniture.”

[G W Pattillo, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters wuz little log houses scattered here and dar. Some of
’em had two rooms on de fust flo’ and a loft up ‘bove whar de boys most
genially slep’ and de gals slep’ downstairs. I don’t ‘member nothin’
t’all ’bout what us done ‘cept scrap lak chilluns will do.

“Oh! I ain’t forgot ’bout dem beds. Dey used cords for springs, and de
cords run f’um head to foot; den dey wove ’em ‘cross de bed ’til dey
looked lak checks. Wheat straw wuz sewed up in ticks for mattresses.
When you rolled ’round on one of dem straw mattresses, de straw crackled
and sounded lak rain. No Ma’am, I don’t know nothin’ t’all ’bout my
gran’pa and gran’ma.”

[Alec Pope, Part III, Georgia]

“All of the houses on the Kennon plantation were made of logs including
that of Mr. Kennon himself. There were only two visible differences in
the dwelling places of the slaves and that of Mr. Kennon and there were
(1) several rooms instead of the one room allowed the slaves and (2)
weatherboard was used on the inside to keep the weather out while the
slaves used mud to serve for this purpose. In these crude one-roomed
houses (called stalls) there was a bed made of some rough wood. Rope
tied from side to side served as the springs for the mattress which was
a bag filled with straw and leaves. There were also one or two boxes
which were used as chairs. The chimney was made of rocks and mud. All
cooking was done here at the fireplace. Mrs. Price says; “Even Old
Marster did’nt have a stove to cook on so you know we did’nt.” The only
available light was that furnished by the fire. Only one family was
allowed to a cabin so as to prevent overcrowding. In addition to a good
shingle roof each one of these dwellings had a board floor. All floors
were of dirt on the plantation belonging to the elder Mr. Kennon.”

[Annie Price, Part III, Georgia]

“Houses on the Ealey plantation were built of pine poles after which the
cracks were filled with red mud. Most of these houses consisted of one
room; however, a few were built with two rooms to accommodate the larger
families. The beds, called “bunks” by Mr. Pye were nailed to the sides
of the room. Roped bottoms covered with a mattress of burlap and hay
served to complete this structure called a bed. Benches and a home made
table completed the furnishings. There were very few if any real chairs
found in the slave homes. The houses and furniture were built by skilled
Negro carpenters who were hired by the mistress from other slave owners.
A kind slave owner would allow a skilled person to hire his own time and
keep most of the pay which he earned.”

[Charlie Pye, Part III, Georgia]

“The slave quarters on the plantation were located behind the colonel’s
cabin[??]. All were made of logs. The chinks in the walls were filled
with mud to keep the weather out. The floors were of wood in order to
protect the occupants from the dampness. The only furnishings were a
crude bed and several benches. All cooking was done at the large
fireplace in the rear of the one room.”

[Julia Rush, Part III, Georgia]

“De quarters whar us lived was log cabins chinked wid mud to
keep out de rain and wind. Chimblies was made out of fiel’ rock and red
clay. I never seed a cabin wid more dan two rooms in it.

“Beds warn’t fancy dem days lak dey is now; leastwise I didn’t see no
fancy ones. All de beds was corded; dey had a headboard, but de pieces
at de foot and sides was jus’ wide enough for holes to run de cords
thoo’, and den de cords was pegged to hold ’em tight. Nigger chillun
slep’ on pallets on de flo’.”

[Will Sheets, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters was long rows of log cabins wid chimblies made out of
sticks and red mud. Dem chimblies was all de time ketchin’ fire. Dey
didn’t have no glass windows. For a window, dey jus’ cut a openin’ in a
log and fixed a piece of plank ‘cross it so it would slide when dey
wanted to open or close it. Doors was made out of rough planks, beds was
rough home-made frames nailed to de side of de cabins, and mattresses
was coarse, home-wove ticks filled wid wheat straw. Dey had good
home-made kivver. Dem beds slept mighty good.”

[Robert Shepherd, Part III, Georgia]

“De slave quarters wuz in rows and had two rooms and a shed. Dey had
beds made out of poles fastened together wid pegs and ‘cross ’em wuz
laid de slats what dey spread de wheat straw on. Us had good kivver
’cause our Marster wuz a rich man and he believed in takin’ keer of his
Niggers. Some put sheets dat wuz white as snow over de straw. Dem sheets
wuz biled wid home-made soap what kept ’em white lak dat. Udder folkses
put quilts over de straw. At de end of de slave quarters wuz de barns
and cow sheds, and a little beyond dem wuz de finest pasture you ever
seed wid clear water a-bubblin’ out of a pretty spring, and runnin’
thoo’ it. Dar’s whar dey turned de stock to graze when dey warn’t
wukkin’ ’em.”

[Tom Singleton, Part III, Georgia]

“He had another slave to do
all the carpenterin’ and to make all the coffins for the folks that died
on the plantation. That same carpenter made ‘most all the beds the white
folks and us slaves slept on. Them old beds–they called ’em
teesters–had cords for springs; nobody never heard of no metal springs
them days. They jus’ wove them cords criss-cross, from one side to the
other and from head to foot. When they stretched and sagged they was
tightened up with keys what was made for that purpose.”

[Nellie Smith, Part III, Georgia]

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

[Cordelia Thomas, Part IV, Georgia]

“Jane told of the log cabins in the Quarters where all the negroes lived.
She said they were all in a row “wid er street in de front, er wide
street all set thick wid white mulberry trees fer ter mak’ shade fer de
chillun ter play in.”

[Jane Toombs, Part IV, Georgia]

“The “big house,” a
large unpainted structure which housed a family of eighteen, was in the
midst of a grove of trees near the highway that formed one of the
divisions of the plantation. It was again divided by a local railway
nearly a mile from the rear of the house. Eighty-eight slaves were
housed in the “quarters” which were on each side of the highway a little
below the planter’s home.

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

[Phil Towns, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Neal Upson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Addie Vinson, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Rhodus Walton, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

“De real name of dese wus ‘Sonova-Bitches’ but de slaves called ’em
‘Grand Rascals’ ’cause dey didn’t want people to hear ’em use a bad
word.”

[William Ward, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Green Willbanks, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Frances Willingham, Part IV, Georgia]

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

[Uncle Willis, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

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

[George Womble, Part IV, Georgia]

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

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

[Henry Wright, Part IV, Georgia]

Update June 30, 2015

The June 30, 2015 update includes significant additions of Non-Hairston families and source additions. Virginia marriage sources were used to link husband and wife to parents and match to census records. These marriage records are one of the most useful tools used in this update as the record often included the husband’s father’s name and mother’s maiden name as well as the wife’s father’s name and mother’s maiden name. Non-Hairston families were emphasized this update to build the database to be able to link the marriages of Hairston daughters to their new in-laws.