Eli Harrison


W.W. Dixon,

Winnsboro, S.C.



Eli Harrison lives on a small ten-acre tract of land near Dutchman

Creek, in Fairfield County, approximately seven miles southeast of

Winnsboro. The house, which he owns, is a small shack or shanty

constructed of scantlings and slabs. He lives in it alone and does his

own cooking. He has been on the relief roll for the past three years,

and ekes out a subsistence on the charity of the Longtown and Ridgeway

people. He is small, wiry, and healthy, weighing about 110 pounds.

"I sure has had a time a finding you! I was up here to Winnsboro befo'

dis Welfare Society, tryin' to git a pension and they ask me who know my

age. I tell them a whole lot of people out of town knows it. Then they

ask if anybody in town know my age. I gived in your name. They say they

will take your affidavit for it and tell me to bring dis paper to you.

"I b'long, in slavery, to your step-mother's people, de Harrisons, in

Longtown. You 'members comin' down when I was a young man and you was a

boy? Don't you 'member us playin' in de sand in front of de old Harrison

house? Dat house older than you and me. 'Member how I show you how to

call de doodles from de sand? How was it? I just git down on my hands

and knees in de sand and say: 'Doodle, doodle, doodle, doodle, come up

your house is afire!' Them black little doodles would come right up out

of de sand to see what gwine on up dere 'bove de sand. Mighty glad you

keeps dat in your mem'ry, 'til dis blessed day.

"I b'long to old Marse Eli Harrison, de grandpa of your step-mother. I

was born and raised on his Wateree River plantation. They called it

Harrison Flats, 'til de Southern Power Company and de Dukes taken over

de land, de river, de bull-frogs, de skeeters, whoop owls, and

everything else down here. De Harrisons owned dat place befo' de

Revolutionary War, they say. De skeeters run them out and de folks built

a string of houses out of logs, all 'long de roadside and call it

Longtown. Marse John D. tell me dat, and fust thing you know they was

callin' it Longtown and dats what it's called today.

"Old Marse Eli is a quiet man but him have two brudders dat wasn't so

quiet. They was Marse Aaron Burr Harrison and Marse John R. Harrison.

All of them have race horses. I, bein' little, ride de horses in de

races at de last. De tracks I ride on? One was up near Great Falls,

'tween old Marse Strother Fords and de Martin place. De other was out

from Simpsons' Turn Out. De Hamptons used to have horses on dese tracks.

"My mistress name Mary. My young marsters name: Sylvester, Lundsford,

David, and John D. They all dead but de old house is still dere on de

roadside and I alone is live to tell de tale.

"Dere's one thing I wants to tell you 'bout old Marse John. Him was

'suaded by de Hamptons, to buy a big plantation in Mississippi. Him go

out dere to raise cattle, race horses, cotton, sugar cane and niggers.

When him die, after so long a time they take him out of his grave. De

Harrisons done built a long, big, rock, family vault in de graveyard

here to put all de dead of de family name in. Well, what you reckon? Why

when dat coffin reach Ridgeway and they find it mighty heavy for just

one man's body, they open it and find Marse John's body done turned to

solid rock. What you think of dat? And what you think of dis? They put

him in de vault in de summertime. Dat fall a side show was goin' on in

Columbia, showin' a petrified man, you had to pay twenty-five cents to

go in and see it. De show leave and go up North. 'Bout Christmas, de

family go together to de vault, open it, and bless God dat rock body

done got up and left dat vault. What you think 'bout dat? What people

say? Some say one thing, some say another. Niggers all 'low, 'Marse John

done rose from de dead.' White folks say: 'Somebody done stole dat body

of Marse John and makin' a fortune out of it, in de side show line.'

"Well, I's told you 'nough for one day. I's impatient to git back down

yonder to them white ladies wid dis paper, so as to speed up dat pension

as fast as I used to speed up them race horses I use to ride on de old

race track road from Simpson's to Columbia."

Eli Davison Elias Dawkins facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail