Isabella Dorroh

Project 1885-1


Spartanburg, Dist. 4

Dec. 1, 1937

Edited by: Elmer Turnage

[~HW: (Dorroh~]


"I live wid my daughter in a four-room house which we rents from Doc

Hunter. He got it in charge. My husband died several years ago.

"My daddy was Harvey Pratt, and he belonged to Marse Bob Pratt in

Newberry. My mammy was Mary Fair, and she belonged in slavery to marse

Simeon Fair. When dey married dey had a big wedding. Marse didn't make

slave women marry men if dey didn't want to. Befo' my mammy and daddy

married, somebody give a note to take to Mrs. Fair, her mistress.

Mistress wouldn't tell what was in it, but daddy run every step of de

way, he was so glad dey would let 'em marry.

"Col. Simeon Fair had a big fish pond on his place down on de branch

behind his house, and he had a milkhouse, too. (This is where the

Margaret Hunter Park is).

"My great-grandmother come from Virginia. She was bought by Marse Fair

from a speculator's drove. Slaves had good places to live in and

everything to eat. Old Marse sho cared for his slaves. He give 'em

plenty of clothes and good things to eat. On Sundays dey had to go to de

white folks' church and he made dem put on new clean clothes dat he give


"I was born about two years befo' freedom, and I lost my mammy right

atter de war. I remember about de Ku Klux and Red Shirts.

"Everything we had was made at home, or on marster's big plantation in

de country. Marse told his son, Billy, befo' he died to take care of his

niggers and see dat dey didn't want for nothing.

"Marse made de slaves work all day and sometimes on Saturdays, but he

never let 'em work at night. Sometimes on de plantation dey had

corn-shuckings and log-rollings; den dey give de hands good dinners and

some whiskey to drink.

"One old nigger had a weak back and couldn't work much, so he use to

play marbles in de yard wid de kids most every day.

"Slaves couldn't go away from de place unless dey had a pass from de

marse to show de patrollers when dey caught dem out.

"My daddy use to cook at de old Newberry Hotel. He was one of de finest

cooks in dis part of de country. De hotel was a small wooden frame

building wid a long front piazza. In de back was a small wooden two-room

house dat servants lived in. Atter de war, de 'little guard house' stood

jes' behind where de opera house now is.

"Some of de slaves learned to read and write. Marse didn't keep dem from

learning if dey wanted to. Niggers used to sing, 'I am born to die'. Dey

learn't it from Marse Ramage's son, 'Jock' Ramage. He learn't 'em to

sing it.

"Atter de war, Marse told de niggers dey was free. Most of dem stayed on

wid him and took his name. Slaves most always took de name of deir


"My mother married at Thomas Pope's place, and he had old man Ned

Pearson, a nigger who could read and write, to marry 'em. He married

lots of niggers den. Atter de war many niggers married over agin, 'cause

dey didn't know if de first marriage was good or not.

"Marse Fair let his niggers have dances and frolics on his plantation,

and on Saturdays dey danced till 12 o'clock midnight. Sometimes dey

danced jigs, too, in a circle, jumping up and down. In dese times de

young folks dance way into Sunday mornings, and nobody to stop 'em, but

Marse wouldn't let his slaves dance atter 12 o'clock.

"Everybody believed in ghosts. Nobody would pass by a graveyard on a

dark night, and dese days dey go to cemeteries to do deir mischief, at

night and not afraid. Doctors used to have home-made medicines. Old Dr.

Brown made medicine from a root herb to cure rheumatism. He called it

'rhue'. He lived in what is now called Graveltown. His old house has

been torn down. He made hot teas from barks for fevers. He made a liquid

salve to rub on for rheumatism.

"When freedom come most of de slaves stayed on. Some man come here to

make a speech to de slaves. He spoke in Marse Fair's yard to a big crowd

of niggers and told dem to stay on and work for wages. When de Yankees

come through here, dey stole everything dey could git deir hands on. Dey

went in de house and took food and articles. Marse put guards around his

house to keep dem out so dey wouldn't steal all de potatoes and flour he

had for his slaves. Ku Klux went around de country and caught niggers

and carpetbaggers. De carpetbaggers would hunt up chillun's lands, whose

daddys was killed and try to take dem. Dat was when Judge Leheigh was

here, and Capt. Bone was postmaster. Dey was Republicans, but when de

Democrats got in power dey stopped all dat.

"When I married John Dorroh I had a big wedding. We married at de Harp

place in Newberry, jes' behind de big house, in a nigger cottage. White

folks and niggers come. I was known amongst de best white families

'cause I served as cook for dem. I was married by Rev. J. K. Walls, a

nigger preacher from Charleston.

"I think slavery ended through de work of Almighty God. My mother always

said dat was it. My daddy left here and went to Memphis when I was five

years old. He sent home $40. He was in de army wid Major James Baxter.

He took care of de guns and things of de Major."

Source: Isabella Dorroh (N, 75), Newberry, S. C.

Interviewer: G. L. Summer, Newberry, S. C. 11/22/27.

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