Milton Hammond


Minnie B. Ross.



After explaining the object of the visit to Mr. Hammond he smiled and

remarked "I think that is a good piece of work you're doing; and I'll

tell you all that I can remember about slavery, you see I was only a

small boy then; yesterday though, I was 83 years old." Mr. Hammond led

the way up a dark stairway down a dark hall to a door. After unlocking

the door, he turned on a light which revealed a very dark room commonly

furnished and fairly neat in appearance. The writer took a seat and

listened to the old man relate the following incidents.

A slave boy by the name of Milton Hammond was born in Griffin, Georgia,

October 20, 1853. His parents, Emily and James Hammond, had 10 children

8 boys and 2 girls of whom he was oldest. His mother, sisters and

brothers used the name Hammond as this was their father's name. Although

every number of his family with the exception of his father, belonged to

Bill Freeman they always used his name. Mr. Hammonds family always lived

in the town of Griffin and belonged to a class known as "Town Slaves".

When Mr. Hammond reached the age of 6 years their old master, Bill

Freeman died and all the property money, slaves, etc., had to be re-sold

at an administrations sale. Among his four children a plan was made to

repurchase their favorite slaves; but many were sold to owners in

different states particularly Mississippi and Louisiana. Mr. Hammonds

father, desiring to keep his family near him, spoke to his master and

asked that he appeal to the young mistress to purchase his family. "I

remember the auction sale quite well, remarked Mr. Hammond. They stood

us on the block side by side. The mistress held my baby brother in her

arms; and they began to cry us off just as they do now. Of course my

mistress came forward and bought us, and we returned home the same day

we left". Slaves were always sorted and placed into separate groups or

classes. For instance, the heavy robust ones were placed together and

sold for large sums of money. The light weights were grouped and sold


Although the Freemans owned a large plantation several miles from

Griffin and had a large number of slaves, who lived on this plantation

to do the work, they resided in town with only the Hammond family as

their servants. Mr. Hammonds' grandmother acted as the cook for the

household and his mother assisted her. His sister was the chamber-maid

and kept the house spotlessly clean. Smiling, Mr. Hammond remarked,

"Until I was older my job was that of playing, later I became my young

mistress's carriage driver". Miss Adeline Freeman was the young mistress

whom Mr. Hammond continued to speak of; and during the war period she

did welfare work; that is, Mr. Hammond drove her and her mother around

through different counties, soliciting medicines, rags for bandages,

etc., which were sent, to the hospitals.

Mr. Hammond related the following experiences while driving through the

country. "We always visited the richest slave owners, those who owned 2

and 3 hundred head of slaves, and often would remain in one community

over night and probably the next day. After putting up the horses an and

carriage I would follow my mistress into the dining room. She always saw

to it that I sat at the same table with her. I never could drink milk or

eat butter, so on more than one occasion other people would try to

influence my mistress and tell her that if I belonged to them they would

make me drink milk or beat me. She never noticed any of their remarks;

but always gave me the same food that she ate.

"Often while driving, I would almost drop off to sleep and my old

mistress would shout, "Milton aren't you sleepy?". "No ma'am", I would

reply, "Why, yes you are; I'll slap your jaws". My young mistress would

then take the reins and tell me to go to sleep."

Mr. Hammond continued--"Many a morning I have known the overseers on the

plantation where we were stopping to blow the horn for every one to get

up, long before sunrise prepare their breakfast and get to the fields.

The old women were required to care for the young children while their

mothers worked in the fields. Sometimes there would be a many as ten and

fifteen for each to look after. Around noon they were fed from a trough

which was about ten or fifteen feet in length. Pot liquor by the buckets

was thrown in the trough until they were filled. The children with

spoons in their hands would then line up on each side no sooner was the

signal given than they began eating like a lot of pigs. The smaller ones

would often jump in with their feet."

After the work in the fields was completed for the day, women were then

required to work at night spinning thread into cloth. Each woman had a

task which consisted of making so many cuts a night. As Mr. Hammond

remarked, "You couldn't hear your ears at night on some plantations, for

the old spinning wheels". At 9 o'clock the overseer would blow the horn

for every one to go to bed. The cloth woven by women was used to make

men clothing also, and was dyed different colors from dye which was made

by boiling walnut hulls and berries of various kinds. Color varied

according to the kind of berry used. One pair of shoes, made to order,

was given each person once a year.

One and two roomed log cabins were found on practically all the

plantations. The number of rooms depended upon the number in the family.

Sometimes one room would contain three and four bed scaffolds, so called

by Mr. Hammond because of their peculiar construction. Some beds were

nailed to the walls and all of them were built with roped bottoms. Home

made tables and benches completed the furnishings of a slave home. There

were no stoves, large fireplaces, five to six feet in length, served the

purpose of stoves for cooking. Cooking utensils including an oven and

very large pots were found in every home. Wooden plates and spoons were

used on some plantations.

The rations for the next week were given each family on saturday nights,

amounts varying according to the number in each family. Usually a small

family received three lbs. of bacon, one peck of meal, and one quart of


Slaves on the Freeman plantation never knew anything but kind treatment.

Their mistress was a religious woman and never punished unless it was

absolutely necessary. On other plantations however, some slaves were

treated cruelly. When a slave resented this treatment he was quickly

gotten rid of. Many were sent to Mississippi and Texas. White offenders

were sent to chain gangs, but there were no gangs for slaves. "Patter

rollers" were known more for their cruelty than many of the slave owners

and would often beat slaves unmercifully". "I remember one," remarked

Mr. Hammond, "The Patter rollers fot after a man on our place." Booker

went to see his wife and took along an old out of date pass. The

Patter-rollers asked to see the pass which he quickly handed to them and

kept walking. After inspecting the pass closely they called Booker and

told him the pass was no good. "Well this is" he replied and started

running just as fast as he could until he safely reached the plantation.

"I never needed a pass."

Through the week the slaves were allowed to conduct prayer meeting in

the quarters themselves; but on Sundays they attended the white churches

for their weekly religious meetings. We were told to obey our masters

and not to steal. "That is all the sermon we heard," remarked Mr.

Hammond. Their services were conducted in the basement of the church in

the afternoons.

Marriages on the Freeman Plantation, were conducted in much the same

manner as they are today. Mr. Hammond only remembers attending just one

marriage of a colored couple. A white minister performed the ceremony

right in the mistress's yard as every one white and colored looked on.

After the ceremony the usual frolic did not take place; however on other

plantations frolics often took place immediately following a marriage.

Whiskey served as refreshment for some while others had to content

themselves with barbecue.

"When we got sick we were not allowed to suffer through negligence on

the part of our owner", remarked Mr. Hammond. Family doctors of the

white families attended the slaves and through them they were well cared

for. Castor oil was the favorite home remedy used in those days and it

could always be found on the family shelf.

"My first impression of the civil war was received when the methodist

and Baptist Churches began to disagree", remarked Mr. Hammond. He

continued,--"One day as my uncle and I worked on Miss Adeline's truck

farm Wheeler's Calvary, a group of Confederate soldiers came to the

field and forced us to give them our two best mules. In their place they

left their old half starved horses. We immediately rode to town

and informed the mistress of what had taken place. During this time

Confederate soldiers were known to capture slaves and force them to dig

ditches, known as breastworks. My mistress became frightened, and locked

me in the closet until late in the evening. She then fixed a basket of

food and instructed me as to the direction in which to travel back to

the field. It was a common sight to see soldiers marching on to Macon,

Ga., in the mornings and in the evenings see the same group on their way

back running from the Yanks".

Mr. Hammond made the following statement concerning the end of the war.

"Our mistress told us we were free; however, I was too young to realize

just what freedom would mean to us, but somehow I knew that we would

have to be responsible for our own upkeep. Doctors bills, medicines,

clothing, (etc) would have to be paid by us from then on. After that we

worked for anyone who would hire us and never earned over 25 or 30 cents

a day. Sometimes our pay consisted of a peck of meal or a piece of


As a close to the interview Mr. Hammond stated he married at the age of

23 and was the father of 7 children. He has lived in Atlanta for the

past 65 years working at various jobs. At one time he owned a dray. "My

old age is the result of taking care of myself and not being exposed."

Besides this Mr. Hammond attends Bethel A.M.E. church regularly. As

writer prepared to leave, Mr. Hammond remarked, "I never knew much about

slavery, you see; I've always been treated as a free man".

Milly Henry Milton Ritchie facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail