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George Eason




From: Georgia

[HW: Atlanta
Dist. 5
Driskell]

THE EXPERIENCE OF GEORGE EASON IN SLAVERY TIME
[MAY 8 1937]


Mr. George Eason was born in Forsyth, Ga., on the plantation of Mr. Jack
Ormond. In addition to himself there were six other children, one of
whom was his twin brother. He and his brother were the oldest members of
this group of children. His mother, who was the master's cook, had
always belonged to the Ormond family while his father belonged to
another family, having been sold while he (George) was still a baby.

It so happened that Mr. Ormond was a wealthy planter and in addition to
the plantation that he owned in the country, he also maintained a large
mansion in the town.

The first few years of his life were spent in town where he helped his
mother in the kitchen by attending to the fire, getting water, etc. He
was also required to look after the master's horse. Unlike most other
slave owners who allowed their house servants to sleep in the mansion,
Mr. Ormond had several cabins built a short distance in the rear of his
house to accommodate those who were employed in the house. This house
group consisted of the cook, seamstress, maid, butler, and the wash
woman. Mr. Eason and those persons who held the above positions always
had good food because they got practically the same thing that was
served to the master and his family. They all had good clothing--the
women's dresses being made of calico, and the butler's suits of good
grade cloth, the particular kind of which Mr. Eason knows nothing about.
He himself wore a one-piece garment made of crocus.

Mr. Eason was about 7 or 8 years of age when he was first sent to work
in the field. It was then that his troubles began. He says that he was
made to get up each morning at sun-up and that after going to the field
he had to toil there all day until the sun went down. He and his fellow
slaves had to work in all types of weather, good as well as bad.
Although the master or the overseer were not as cruel as some he had
heard of they tolerated no looseness of work and in case a person was
suspected of loafing the whip was applied freely. Although he was never
whipped, he has heard the whip being applied to his mother any number of
times. It hurt him, he says, because he had to stand back unable to
render any assistance whatever. (This happened before he was sent to the
plantation.) When his mother got these whippings she always ran off
afterwards and hid in the woods which were nearby. At night she would
slip to the cabin to get food and while there would caution him and the
other children not to tell the master that they had seen her. The
master's wife who was very mean was always the cause of her receiving
these lashings.

Some nights after he and the other slaves had left the field they were
required to do extra work such as ginning cotton and shelling peas and
corn, etc. The young women were required to work that in some respects
was as hard as that the men did, while the older women usually did
lighter work. When the time came to pick the cotton all hands were
converted into pickers. Night was the only time that they had to do
their washing and to cultivate the small gardens they were allowed to
have.

During the months when there was little field work to do they were kept
busy repairing fences, etc. on the farm. Every day was considered a
working day except Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were not
allowed to celebrate on these days as were the slaves on other nearby
plantations.

Clothing on the Ormond plantation was usually insufficient to satisfy
the needs of the slave. Each year one issue was given each slave. For
the men this issue consisted of 1 pair of brogan shoes, several homespun
shirts, a few pairs of knitted socks, and two or three pairs of pants.
The brogans were made of such hard leather until the wearers' feet were
usually blistered before the shoes were "broken in." The women, in
addition to a pair of shoes and some cotton stockings were given several
homespun dresses. On one occasion Mr. Eason says that he wore his shoes
out before time for an issue of clothing. It was so cold until the skin
on his feet cracked, causing the blood to flow. In spite of this his
master would give him no more shoes. All clothing was made on the
plantation except the shoes.

Those women who were too old for field work did the sewing in addition
to other duties to be described later.

Indigo was cultivated for dyeing purposes and in some instances a dye
was made by boiling walnut leaves and walnut hulls in water. In addition
to her duties as cook, Mr. Eason's mother had to also weave part of the
cloth. He told of how he had to sit up at night and help her and how she
would "crack" him on the head for being too slow at times.

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.

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.

Absolute cleanliness was required at all times and the floors, if they
were made of wood, had to be swept and scrubbed often. In addition to
the private dwellings there was one large house where all children not
old enough to go to the field were kept. One or two of the older women
took charge of them, seeing that they had a sufficient amount of corn
bread, vegetables and milk each day. All were fed from a trough like
little pigs.

These old women were also responsible for the care of the sick. When
asked if a doctor was employed, Mr. Eason replied that one had to be
mighty sick to have the services of a doctor. The usual treatment for
sick slaves was castor oil, which was given in large doses, salts and a
type of pill known as "hippocat." (ipecac)

Although they were not permitted any formal type of learning religious
worship it was not denied them. Each Sunday Mr. Ormond required that all
his slaves attend church. All went to the white church where they sat in
back and listened to the sermon of a white preacher. Mr. Eason says that
the slaves believed in all kinds of and every conceivable type of signs.
Their superstitions usually had to do with methods of conjure.

A preacher was never used to perform a wedding ceremony on the Ormond
plantation. After the man told the master about the woman of his choice
and she had been called and had agreed to the plan, all that was
necessary was for the couple to join hands and jump over a broom which
had been placed on the ground.

Mr. Ormond permitted few if any celebrations or frolics to take place on
his farm. When he did grant this privilege his slaves were permitted to
invite their friends who of course had to get a "pass" from their
respective masters. They, too, were required to secure a pass from Mr.
Ormond if they wanted to visit off the premises. If caught by the
"Paddle Rollers" (Patrollers) without this pass they were soundly
whipped and then taken to their master.

At the beginning of the Civil War all the slaves talked among themselves
concerning the possible outcome of the war. However, they never let the
master or the overseer hear them because it meant a whipping.

When Sherman and his army marched through they burned all the gin houses
on the Ormond plantation and took all the available live stock. Mr.
Ormond took a few prized possessions and a few slaves (one of whom was
Mr. Eason) and fled to Augusta, Ga.

After freedom was declared he was still held in bondage and hired out by
the day. Once he ran away but was found and brought back. In 1867 the
remaining members of the Ormond family moved to Atlanta, bringing him
along with them. After most of them had died he was finally permitted to
go or stay as he pleased.

Immediately after freedom had been declared he had the good fortune to
find his father. However, he never got a chance to spend any time with
him as the Ormonds refused to release him.

Says Mr. Eason: "Slavery had a good point in that we slaves always felt
that somebody was going to take care of us." He says that he has heard
some wish for the good old days but as for himself he prefers things to
remain as they are at present.





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