Ellen Campbell




ELLEN CAMPBELL, 1030 Brayton Street, Augusta, Ga., Born 1846.

Ellen Campbell lives in a little house in a garden behind a picket

fence. Ellen is a sprightly, erect, black woman ninety years old. Beady

little eyes sparkled behind her glasses as she talked to us. Her manner

is alert, her mind is very keen and her memory of the old days very

clear. Though the temperature was in the high nineties she wore two

waists, and her clothes were clean and neatly patched. There was no

headcloth covering the fuzzy grey wool that was braided into innumerable


She invited us into her tiny cabin. The little porch had recently been

repaired, while the many flowers about the yard and porch gave evidence

of constant and loving care to this place which had been bought for her

long ago by a grandson who drove a "hack." When she took us into the

crowded, but clean room, she showed us proudly the portrait of this big

grandson, now dead. All the walls were thickly covered with framed

pictures of different members of her family, most of whom are now dead.

In their midst was a large picture of Abraham Lincoln.

"Dere's all my chillun. I had fo' daughter and three 'grands', but all

gone now but one niece. I deeded de place to her. She live out north

now, but she send back de money fer de taxes and insurance and to pay de


Then she proudly pointed out a framed picture of herself when she was


"Why Auntie, you were certainly nice looking then."

Her chest expanded and her manner became more sprightly as she said, "I

wus de pebble on de beach den!"

"And I suppose you remember about slavery days?"

"Yes ma'm, I'm ninety years old--I wus a grown 'oman when freedom come.

I 'longed to Mr. William Eve. De plantachun was right back here--all dis

land was fields den, slap down to Bolzes'."

"So you remember a lot about those times?"

She laughed delightedly. "Yas'm. I 'longed to Miss Eva Eve. My missus

married Colonel Jones. He got a boy by her and de boy died."

"You mean Colonel Jones, the one who wrote books?"

"Yas'm. He a lawyer, too, down to de Cote House. My missus was Mrs.

Carpenter's mother, but she didn't brought her here."

"You mean she was her step-mother?"

"Yas'm, dat it. I go to see dem folks on de hill sometime. Dey good to

me, allus put somepen in mah hands."

"What kind of work did you do on the plantation?"

"When I wus 'bout ten years old dey started me totin' water--you know

ca'in water to de hands in de field. 'Bout two years later I got my

first field job, 'tending sheep. When I wus fifteen my old Missus gib me

to Miss Eva--you know she de one marry Colonel Jones. My young missus

wus fixin' to git married, but she couldn't on account de war, so she

brought me to town and rented me out to a lady runnin' a boarding house.

De rent was paid to my missus. One day I wus takin' a tray from de

out-door kitchen to de house when I stumbled and dropped it. De food

spill all over de ground. De lady got so mad she picked up a butcher

knife and chop me in de haid. I went runnin' till I come to de place

where my white folks live. Miss Eva took me and wash de blood out mah

head and put medicine on it, and she wrote a note to de lady and she

say, 'Ellen is my slave, give to me by my mother. I wouldn't had dis

happen to her no more dan to me. She won't come back dere no more.'"

"Were you ever sold during slavery times, Aunt Ellen?"

"No'm. I wa'nt sold, but I knows dem whut wus. Jedge Robinson he kept de

nigger trade office over in Hamburg."

"Oh yes, I remember the old brick building."

"Yas'm, dat it. Well, all de colored people whut gonner be sold was kept

dere. Den dey brung 'em over to de market and put 'em up fer sale.

Anybody fixin' to buy 'em, 'zamines 'em to see if dey all right. Looks

at de teef to tell 'bout de age."

"And was your master good to you, Auntie?"

"I'll say dis fer Mr. William Eve--he de bes' white man anywhere round

here on any dese plantachuns. Dey all own slaves. My boss would feed 'em

well. He wus killin' hogs stidy fum Jinury to March. He had two

smoke-houses. Dere wus four cows. At night de folks on one side de row

o' cabins go wid de piggins fer milk, and in de mawnin's dose on de

odder side go fer de piggins o' milk."

"And did you have plenty of other things to eat?"

"Law, yas'm. Rations wus given out to de slaves; meal, meat and jugs o'

syrup. Dey give us white flour at Christmas. Every slave family had de

gyrden patch, and chickens. Marster buy eggs and chickens fum us at

market prices."

"Did the overseers ever whip the slaves or treat them cruelly?"

"Sometimes dey whup 'em--make 'em strip off dey shirt and whup 'em on de

bare skin. My boss had a white overseer and two colored men dey call

drivers. If dey didn't done right dey dus whup you and turn you loose."

"Did the Eves have a house on the plantation, too?"

"No'm, dey live in town, and he come back and fo'th every day. It warn't

but three miles. De road run right fru de plantachun, and everybody

drive fru it had to pay toll. Dat toll gate wus on de D'Laigle

plantachun. Dey built a house fer Miss Kitty Bowles down by de double

gate where dey had to pay de toll. Dat road where de Savannah Road is."

When asked about war times on the plantation Ellen recalled that when

the Northern troops were around Waynesboro orders were sent to all the

masters of the nearby plantations to send ten of their best men to build

breastworks to hold back the northern advance.

"Do you remember anything about the good times or weddings on the


She laughed delightedly. "Yas'm. When anybody gwine be married dey tell

de boss and he have a cake fix. Den when Sunday come, atter dey be

married, she put on de white dress she be married in and dey go up to

town so de boss see de young couple."

"Den sometimes on Sadday night we have a big frolic. De nigger frum

Hammond's place and Phinizy place, Eve place, Clayton place, D'Laigle

place all git togedder fer big dance and frolic. A lot o' de young white

sports used to come dere and push de nigger bucks aside and dance wid de


"What happened, Auntie, if a slave from one plantation wanted to marry a

slave from another?"

She laughed significantly. "Plenty. Old Mr. Miller had a man name Jolly

and he wanner marry a woman off anudder plantachun, but Jolly's Marster

wanna buy de woman to come to de plantachun. He say, 'Whut's fair fer de

goose is fair fer de gander.' When dey couldn't come to no 'greement de

man he run away to de woods. Den dey sot de bloodhounds on 'im. Dey let

down de rail fence so de hounds could git fru. Dey sarch de woods and de

swamps fer Jolly but dey neber find him.

"De slaves dey know whar he is, and de woman she visit him. He had a den

down dere and plenty o' grub dey take 'im, but de white folks neber find

him. Five hundred dollars wus what Miller put out for whomsover git


"And you say the woman went to visit him?"

"Yes, Ma'm. De woman would go dere in de woods wid him. Finally one

night when he was outer de swamp he had to lie hidin' in de ditch all

night, cross from de nigger hospital. Den somebody crep' up and shot

him, but he didn't die den. Dey cay'ed his [TR: sic] crost to de

hospital and he die three days later."

"What about church? Did you go to church in those days?"

"Yas'm, we used to go to town. But de padderolas wus ridin' in dem days,

and you couldn't go off de plantachun widout a pass. So my boss he build

a brick church on de plantachuhn, and de D'Laigles build a church on


"What happened if they caught you off without a pass?"

"If you had no pass dey ca'y you to de Cote House, and your marster

hadder come git you out."

"Do you remember anything about the Yankees coming to this part of the


At this her manner became quite sprightly, as she replied, "Yas'm, I

seen 'em comin' down de street. Every one had er canteen on he side, a

blanket on his shoulder, caps cocked on one side de haid. De cavalry had

boots on and spurros on de boots. First dey sot de niggers free on Dead

River, den dey come on here to sot us free. Dey march straight up Broad

Street to de Planters' Hotel, den dey camped on Dead River, den dey

camped on de river. Dey stayed here six months till dey sot dis place

free. When dey campin' on de river bank we go down dere and wash dey

clo'es fer a good price. Dey had hard tack to eat. Dey gib us de hard

tack and tell us to soak it in Water, and fry it in de meat gravy. I

ain't taste nothing so good since. Dey say, 'Dis hard tack whut we

hadder lib on while we fightin' to sot you free."

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