George Lewis

[HW: Dist. 5

Ex-Slave #67

E.F. Driskell



[Date Stamp: MAY 2- --]

Mr. George Lewis was born in Pensacola, Florida December 17, 1849. In

addition to himself and his parents, Sophie and Charles Lewis, there

were thirteen other children; two of whom were girls. Mr. Lewis (Geo.)

was the third eldest child.

Although married Mr. Lewis' parents belonged to different owners.

However, Dr. Brosenhan often allowed his servant to visit his wife on

the plantation of her owner, Mrs. Caroline Bright.

In regard to work all of the members of the Lewis clan fared very well.

The father, who belonged to Dr. Brosenhan, was a skilled shipbuilder and

he was permitted to hire himself out to those needing his services. He

was also allowed to hire [HW: out] those children belonging to him who

were old enough to work. He was only required to pay his master and the

mistress of his children a certain percent of his earnings. On the

Bright plantation Mrs. Lewis served as maid and as part of her duties

she had to help with the cooking. Mr. Lewis and his brothers and sisters

were never required to do very much work. Most of their time was spent

in playing around in the yard of the big house.

In answer to a query concerning the work requirements of the other

slaves on this particular plantation Mr. Lewis replied "De sun would

never ketch dem at de house. By de time it wus up dey had done got to de

fiel'--not jes gwine. I've known men to have to wait till it wus bright

enough to see how to plow without "kivering" the plants up. Dey lef' so

early in de mornings dat breakfus' had to be sent to dem in de fiel'. De

chillun was de ones who carried de meals dere. Dis was de first job dat

I had. All de pails wus put on a long stick an' somebody hold to each

end of de stick. If de fiel' hands was too far away fum de house at

dinner time it was sent to dem de same as de breakfus'".

All of the slaves on the plantation were awakened each morning by a

bugle or a horn which was blown by the overseer. The same overseer gave

the signal for dinner hour by blowing on the same horn. All were usually

given one hour for dinner. None had to do any work after leaving the

fields unless it happened to be personal work. No work other than the

caring for the stock was required on Sundays.

A few years before the Civil War Mrs. Bright married a Dr. Bennett

Ferrel and moved to his home in Georgia (Troupe County).

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.

"We got good clothes too says Mr. Lewis. All of 'em was bought. All de

chillun wore a long shirt until dey wus too big an' den dey was given

pants an' dresses. De shoes wus made out of red leather an' wus called

brogans. After we moved to Georgia our new marster bought de cloth an'

had all de clothes made on de plantation. 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.

"All in all", says Mr. Lewis, "we got everything we wanted excep' dere

wus no money comin' for our work an' we couldn't go off de place unless

we asked. If you wus caught off your plantation without a permit fum

marster de Paddy-Rollers whupped you an' sent you home."

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.

All of the slaves on the plantation were permitted to "frolic" whenever

they wanted to and for as long a time as they wanted to. The master gave

them all of the whiskey that they desired. One of the main times for a

frolic was during a corn shucking. At each frolic there was dancing,

fiddling, and eating. The next morning, however all had to be prepared

to report as usual to the fields.

All were required to attend church each Sunday. The same church was used

by the slave owners and their slaves. The owners attended church in the

morning at eleven o'clock and the slaves attended at three o'clock. A

white minister did all of the preaching. "De bigges' sermon he

preached", says Mr. Lewis, "was to read de Bible an' den tell us to be

smart an' not to steal chickens, eggs, an' butter, fum our marsters."

All baptising was done by this selfsame minister.

When a couple wished to marry the man secured the permission of his

intended wife's owner and if he consented, a broom was placed on the

floor and the couple jumped over it and were then pronounced man and


There was not a great deal of whipping on the plantation of Dr. Ferrel

but at such times all whippings were administered by one of the

overseers employed on the plantation. Mr. Lewis himself was only whipped

once and then by the Doctor. This was just a few days before the slaves

were freed. Mr. Lewis says that the doctor came to the field one morning

and called him. He told him that they were going to be freed but that

before he did free him he was going to let him see what it was like to

be whipped by a white man, and he proceeded to paddle him with a white

oak paddle.

When there was serious illness the slaves had the attention of Dr.

Ferrel. On other occasions the old remedy of castor oil and turpentine

was administered. There was very little sickness then according to Mr.

Lewis. Most every family kept a large pot of "Bitters" (a mixture of

whiskey and tree barks) and each morning every member of the family took

a drink from this bucket. This supposedly prevented illness.

When the war broke out Mr. Lewis says that he often heard the old folks

whispering among themselves at night. Several times he saw the Northern

troops as well as the Southern troops but he dos'nt know whether they

were going or coming from the scene of the fighting. Doctor Ferrel

joined the army but on three different occasions he deserted. Before

going to war Dr. Ferrel called Mr. Lewis to him and after giving him his

favorite horse gave him the following "charge" "Don't let the Yankees

get him". Every morning Mr. Lewis would take the horse to the woods

where he hid with him all day. On several occasions Dr. Ferrel slipped

back to his home to see if the horse was being properly cared for. All

of the other valuables belongings to the Ferrels were hidden also.

All of the slaves on the plantation were glad when they were told that

they were free but there was no big demonstration as they were somewhat

afraid of what the Master might do. Some of them remained on the

plantation while others of them left as soon as they were told that they

were free.

Several months after freedom was declared Mr. Lewis' father was able to

join his family which he had not seen since they had moved to Georgia.

When asked his opinion of slavery and of freedom Mr. Lewis said that he

would rather be free because to a certain degree he is able to do as he

pleases, on the other hand he did not have to worry about food and

shelter as a slave as he has to do now at times.

George Kye George Morrison facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail