Georgia Telfair


Box 131, R.F.D. #2

Athens, Ga.

Written by:

Miss Grace McCune

Athens, Ga.

Edited by:

Mrs. Sarah H. Hall

Athens, Ga.


Mrs. Leila Harris

Augusta, Ga.

[Date Stamp: APR 29 1938]

"Yes chile, I'll be glad to tell you de story of my life, I can't tell

you much 'bout slav'ry 'cause I wuz jus' six months old when freedom

come, but I has heared quite a lot, and I will tell you all I kin

'member 'bout everythin." Said old "Aunt" Georgia Telfair, who lives

with her son to whom her devotion is quite evident. Both "Aunt" Georgia

and the little home show the excellent care that is given them.

"My pa," she said, "wuz Pleasant Jones, an' he b'longed to Marse Young

L.G. Harris. Dey lived at de Harris place out on Dearing Street. Hit wuz

all woods out dar den, an' not a bit lak Dearing Street looks now.

"Rachel wuz my ma's name. Us don' know what her las' name wuz 'cause she

wuz sold off when she wuz too little to 'member. Dr. Riddin' (Redding)

bought her an' his fambly always jus' called her Rachel Riddin'. De

Riddin' place wuz whar Hancock Avenue is now, but it wuz all in woods

'roun' dar, jus' lak de place whar my pa wuz. Atter dey wuz married ma

had to stay on wid de Riddin' fambly an' her chilluns b'longed to de

Riddin's 'cause dey owned her. Miss Maxey Riddin' wuz my brudder's young

Missus, an' I wuz give to her sister, Miss Lula Riddin', for to be her

own maid, but us didn't git to wuk for 'em none 'cause it wuz jus' at

dis time all de slaves got sot free. Atter dat my pa tuk us all wid him

an' went to farm on de old Widderspoon (Witherspoon) place.

"It wuz 'way off in de woods. Pa cut down trees an' built us a log

cabin. He made de chimbly out of sticks an' red mud, an' put iron bars

crost de fireplace to hang pots on for to bile our vittuls an' made

ovens for de bakin'. De bes' way to cook 'tatoes wuz to roas' 'em in de

ashes wid de jackets on. Dey ain' nothin' better tastin' dan ash-roasted

'tatoes wid good home-made butter to eat wid 'em. An 'us had de butter,

'cause us kep' two good cows. Ma had her chickens an' tukkeys an' us

raised plenty of hogs, so we nebber wuz widout meat. Our reg'lar Sunday

breakfas' wuz fish what pa cotch out of de crick. I used to git tired

out of fish den, but a mess of fresh crick fish would sho' be jus' right


"Us always kep' a good gyardan full of beans, corn, onions, peas an'

'taters, an' dey warn't nobody could beat us at raisin' lots of greens,

'specially turnips an' colla'd greens. Us saved heaps of dry peas an'

beans, an' dried lots of peaches an' apples to cook in winter. When de

wind wuz a howlin an' de groun' all kivvered wid snow, ma would make

dried fruit puffs for us, dat sho' did hit de spot.

"When I wuz 'bout eight years old, dey sont me to school. I had to walk

from Epps Bridge Road to Knox School. Dey calls it Knox Institute now. I

toted my blue back speller in one han' and my dinner bucket in de other.

Us wore homespun dresses wid bonnets to match. De bonnets wuz all made

in one piece an' had drawstrings on de back to make 'em fit, an' slats

in de brims to make 'em stiff an' straight. Our dresses wuz made long to

keep our legs warm. I don't see, for to save me, how dey keeps dese

young-uns from freezin' now since dey let 'em go 'roun' mos' naked.

"Our brush arbor church wuz nigh whar Brooklyn Mount Pleasant Church is

now, an' us went to Sunday School dar evvy Sunday. It warn't much of a

church for looks, 'cause it wuz made out of poles stuck in de groun' an'

de roof wuz jus' pine limbs an' brush, but dere sho' wuz some good

meetin's in dat old brush church, an' lots of souls foun' de way to de

heb'enly home right dar.

"Our reg'lar preacher wuz a colored man named Morrison, but Mr. Cobb

preached to us lots of times. He wuz a white gemman, an' he say he could

a sot all night an' lissen long as us sung dem old songs. Some of 'em I

done clar forgot, but de one I lak bes' goes sorter lak dis:

'I want to be an angel

An' wid de angels stan'

A crown upon my forehead

And a harp widin my han'.'

"Another tune wuz 'Roll, Jordan Roll.' Little chillun wuz larnt to sing,

'How Sweetly do de Time Fly, When I Please my Mother,' an' us chillun

sho' would do our best a singin' dat little old song, so Preacher Cobb

would praise us.

"When I jined de church dere wuz 35 of us baptized de same day in de

crick back of de church. While Preacher Brown wuz a baptizin' us, a big

crowd wuz standin' on de bank a shoutin' an' singin', 'Dis is de healin'

Water,' an', 'Makin' for de Promise Lan! Some of 'em wuz a prayin' too.

Atter de baptizin' wuz done dey had a big dinner on de groun's for de

new members, but us didn't see no jugs dat day. Jus' had plenty of good

somethin' t'eat.

"When us warn't in school, me an' my brudder wukked in de fiel' wid pa.

In cotton plantin' time, pa fixed up de rows an' us drap de seeds in

'em. Nex' day us would rake dirt over 'em wid wooden rakes. Pa made de

rakes hisse'f. Dey had short wooden teef jus' right for to kivver de

seed. Folkses buys what dey uses now an' don't take up no time makin'

nothin' lak dat.

"In dem days 'roun' de house an' in de fiel' boys jus' wo' one piece of

clo'es. It wuz jus' a long shirt. Dey didn't know nothin' else den, but

I sho' would lak to see you try to make boys go 'roun' lookin' lak dat


"Dey hired me out to Mr. Jack Weir's fambly when I wuz 'bout fo'teen

years old to do washin', ironin', an' cleanin' up de house, an' I wukked

for 'em 'til I married. Dey lemme eat all I wanted dere at de house an'

paid me in old clo'es, middlin' meat, sirup, 'tatoes, an' wheat flour,

but I never did git no money for pay. Not nary a cent.

"Us wukked mighty hard, but us had good times too. De bigges' fun us had

wuz at candy pullin's. Ma cooked de candy in de wash pot out in de yard.

Fust she poured in some home-made sirup, an' put in a heap of brown

sugar from de old sirup barrel an' den she biled it down to whar if you

drapped a little of it in cold water it got hard quick. It wuz ready den

to be poured out in greasy plates an' pans. Us greased our han's wid

lard to keep de candy from stickin' to 'em, an' soon as it got cool

enough de couples would start pullin' candy an' singin'. Dat's mighty

happy music, when you is singin' an' pullin' candy wid yo' bes' feller.

When de candy got too stiff an' hard to pull no mo', us started eatin',

an' it sho' would evermo' git away from dar in a hurry. You ain't nebber

seed no dancin', what is dancin', lessen you has watched a crowd dance

atter dey et de candy what dey done been pullin'.

"Quiltin's wuz a heap of fun. Sometimes two or three famblies had a

quiltin' together. Folkses would quilt some an' den dey passed 'roun' de

toddy. Some would be cookin' while de others wuz a quiltin' an' den when

supper wuz ready dey all stopped to eat. Dem colla'd greens wid cornpone

an' plenty or gingercakes an' fruit puffs an' big ole pots of coffee wuz

mighty fine eatin's to us den.

"An' dere warn't nothin' lackin' when us had cornshuckin's. A gen'ral of

de cornshuckin' wuz appointed to lead off in de fun. He sot up on top of

de big pile of corn an' hysted de song. He would git 'em started off

singin' somethin' lak, 'Sallie is a Good Gal,' an' evvybody kept time

shuckin' an' a singin'. De gen'ral kept singin' faster an' faster, an'

shucks wuz jus' flyin'. When pa started passin' de jug 'roun' dem

Niggers sho' nuff begun to sing loud an' fas' an' you wuz 'bliged for to

'low Sallie mus' be a Good Gal, de way de shucks wuz comin' off of dat

corn so fas'. Dey kep' it up 'til de corn wuz all shucked, an' ma

hollered, 'Supper ready!' Den dey made tracks for de kitchen, an' dey

didn't stop eatin' an' drinkin' dat hot coffee long as dey could

swallow. Ain't nobody fed 'em no better backbones, an' spareribs, turnip

greens, 'tato pies, an' sich lak dan my ma set out for 'em. Old time

ways lak dat is done gone for good now. Folkses ain't lak dey used to

be. Dey's all done got greedy an' don't keer 'bout doin' nothin' for

nobody else no more.

"Ma combed our hair wid a Jim Crow comb, or cyard, as some folkses

called 'em. If our hair wuz bad nappy she put some cotton in de comb to

keep it from pullin' so bad, 'cause it wuz awful hard to comb.

"Evvybody tried to raise plenty of gourds, 'cause dey wuz so handy to

use for dippers den. Water wuz toted from de spring an' kept in piggins.

Don't spec' you ebber did see a piggin. Dats a wooden bucket wid wire

hoops 'roun' it to keep it from leakin'. De wash place wuz nex' to de

spring. Pa fixed us up a big old stump whar us had to battle de clo'es

wid a battlin' stick. It tuk a sight of battlin' to git de dirt out


"If you turned a chunk over in de fire, bad luck wuz sho' to come to

you. If a dog howled a certain way at night, or if a scritch owl come in

de night, death wuz on de way to you, an' you always had to be keerful

so maybe bad spirits would leave you alone.

"Pa built us a new kitchen, jus' lak what de white folkses had dem days.

It sot out in de back yard, a little piece of a way from our house. He

made it out of logs an' put a big old chimbly wid a big fireplace at one

end. Benches wuz built 'roun' de sides for seats. Dere warn't no floor

in it, but jus' dirt floor. Dat wuz one gran' kitchen an' us wuz mighty

proud of it. [HW: p.4]

"My w'ite folkses begged me not to leave 'em, when I told 'em I wuz

gwine to marry Joe Telfair. I'd done been wukkin' for 'em nigh on to six

years, an' wuz mos' twenty years old. Dey gimme my weddin' clo'es, an'

when I seed dem clo'es I wuz one proud Nigger, 'cause dey wuz jus' lak I

wanted. De nightgown wuz made out of white bleachin' an' had lots of

tucks an' ruffles an' it even had puff sleeves. Sho' 'nough it did! De

petticoat had ruffles an' puffs plum up to de wais' ban'. Dere wuz a

cosset kiver dat wuz cut to fit an' all fancy wid tucks an' trimmin',

an' de drawers, dey sho' wuz pretty, jus' full of ruffles an' tucks

'roun' de legs. My dress wuz a cream buntin', lak what dey calls serge

dese days. It had a pretty lace front what my ma bought from one of de

Moss ladies. When I got all dressed up I wuz one mo' gran' lookin'


"Us got married in de new kitchen an' it wuz plum full, 'cause ma had

done axed 76 folkses to de weddin'. Some of 'em wuz Joe's folkses, an'

us had eight waiters: four gals, an' four boys. De same Preacher Brown

what baptized me, married us an' den us had a big supper. My Missus,

Lula Weir, had done baked a great big pretty cake for me an' it tasted

jus' as good as it looked. Atter us et all us could, one of de waiters

called de sets for us to dance de res' of de night. An' sich dancin' as

us did have! Folkses don't know how to dance dat good no mo'. Dat wuz

sho' nuff happy dancin'. Yes Ma'am, I ain't nebber gonna forgit what a

gran' weddin' us had.

"Next day us moved right here an' I done been here ever since. Dis place

b'longed to Joe's gran'ma, an' she willed it to him. Us had 15 chillun,

but ain't but five of 'em livin' now, an' Joe he's been daid for years.

Us always made a good livin' on de farm, an' still raises mos' of what

us needs, but I done got so po'ly I can't wuk no more.

"I'se still tryin' to live right an' walk de narrow way, so as I kin go

to Heb'en when I dies. I'se gwine to pray for you an' ax de Lawd to

bless you, for you has been so good an' patient wid me, an' I'se sho'

thankful my son sont you to see me. You done helped me to feel lots

better. Good-bye, an' God bless you, an' please Ma'am, come back to see

me again."

Georgia Smith Georgianna Foster facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail