Minnie B Ross






Minnie B. Ross

Typed by

A. M. Whitley



In order to catch Mr. Heard Griffin, the writer prepared herself for an

early morning interview. His daughter previously informed her that it

would be the only possible chance of seeing him. Why? because even at

the age of 86 years he is still restless; and is forever in the streets.

He can walk much faster than a young person; but memory and hearing are

a little dimmed by age. By careful and tactful questioning, [HW: and by

giving him] ample time for thinking the writer was able to learn a few

facts of slavery which are as follows:

Mr. Griffin was born May 19, 1850 in Waldon County, Monroe, Georgia. His

mother Sarah Griffin birthed 11 children; but he did not clearly

remember his father as their master sold him when he was a very small

boy. Here he remarked. "They would take small babies from their mothers'

arms and sell them."

Their master and mistress Mike and Lucinda Griffin owned about 200 acres

of land and a large number of slaves. On this plantation was grown corn,

cotton, wheat, etc. Long before day light, the master would come to the

slave quarters and call each person one by one, "Get up. Get up." Very

soon every one was up and fully dressed ready to begin the day's work.

First, however, they drank one or two glasses of milk and a piece of

corn bread, which was considered breakfast. Whether this amount of food

was sufficient for a morning's meal didn't matter to their master. They

simply had to make it last them until dinner. Smiling Mr. Griffin

remarked, "It wouldn't be long before you would hear the "geeing and

hawing" coming from the fields, the squealing of pigs and the barking of

dogs--all sounds mingling together."

Every one had a certain amount of work to complete before the day ended;

and each person worked in feverish haste to get it done and avoid the

whipping which they knew was in store for them, should they fail. During

the day Mr. Griffin's mother worked in the field, hoeing and plowing. At

night she, as well as other women, had to spin thread into cloth until

bed time. Each woman had to complete four cuts or be punished the next

morning. "If it began raining while we worked in the fields, the

overseer would tell everyone to put up their horses and to shelling corn

in the cribs," remarked Mr. Griffin.

"Mike Griffin was the meanest man I've ever known," he continued. "He

would sit down with nothing else to do, think of some man, send for him

and for no reason at all, give him a good beating. He kept a long

cowhide, which was almost an inch thick and with this he would almost

beat folks to death. First you had to remove your clothing so that

whipping would not wear them out. One day he beat a woman named Hannah

so badly that she died the same night. Before daybreak he had carried

the baby off and buried it. We never knew the burial place." Overseers

too, were very mean, particularly those on the Griffin plantation. They

followed the example of the man who hired them and as a result this

plantation was known far and wide for its cruelty, fear and terror. [HW

original text "cruelty, fear and terror" is stricken out.] Many slaves

would have attempted to run away but for fear of the pack of blood

hounds kept for the purpose of tracking run away slaves.

"Patter-rollers" were busy, too, looking up slaves and whipping them for

the flimsiest of excuses. Slaves often outran them to the woods and

managed to return to their plantations unobserved. If a pass had a

certain hour marked in it, for the slave's return, and he failed to

return at the designated houses, this was an offense for which they were

punished by the "patter-rollers." "Yes," remarked Mr. Griffin, "We were

not even allowed to quarrel among ourselves. Our master would quickly

tell us, 'I am the one to fight, not you.'" When a slave visited his

relatives on another plantation the master would send along one or two

of his children to make sure they did not attempt to run away.

Discarded bed clothing was given to slave families on the Griffin

Plantation and often it was necessary to keep a big log fire in the

winter, in order to sleep comfortably. Clothing for individual needs

consisted of one pair of brogan shoes a year and homemade cotton

garments, shirts, pants, dresses, etc. Every person went bare footed in

the summer and saved their one pair of shoes for the winter.

Food consisting of meal, bacon meat, and syrup was given the slave

families once a week. Occasionally "short" a second quality of flour was

given them for their Sunday meals. The Griffins were not liberal in

feeding their slaves, but would not object to their raising a little

corn, and a few vegetables. They had to work their gardens at night,

however, by the light of burning fat wood. Real coffee was on unheard-of

luxury among slaves: so scorched or corn meal served the purpose just as

well. On Christmas the master called each slave and gave him a dram of

whiskey. No other food or fruit was given. [HW: strikes this sentence


Tin pans served as plates for the families. Spoons, knives, and forks

were unheard of: "Many a day I have eaten mashed bread and milk from a

trough and thought it was good," remarked Mr. Griffin.

Occasionally on other plantations slaves were allowed to earn money by

selling vegetables, chickens, etc. On the Griffin Plantation they could

only sell home made "gingercakes" for which a five-cent piece of paper

money was received in return. There were three pieces of paper money

used in those days: the five-cent, ten-cent, and fifteen-cent pieces.

Although the slaves did not have separate churches, they were expected

to attend the white churches and occupy the benches placed in the back,

purposely for them. After the coachman drove the white family to church

he unhitched the horses from the carriage and carried them to the

pasture where they remained until the services were over.

Marriages were very easily performed on the Griffin Plantation: After

securing the consent of both owners the rest of the ceremony consisted

only in having the couple jump the broom. In the event, the bride and

groom lived on separate plantations the groom was given a pass to visit

her on week ends, beginning Saturday afternoon and ending Sunday


"Our master was too mean to let us have frolics," remarked Mr. Griffin;

"we never knew anything, but work. Of course when we got sick we were

given the best medical care possible. People didn't die, they always got

well." Home remedies made from various roots were used for minor


"When the Civil War broke out our master loaded his horses with his most

valuable possessions and refugeed forty miles from his home," remarked

Mr. Griffin. "On one occasion the Yanks came to our plantation and stole

three of our best horses. I never saw a battle fought but often watched

the Confederate soldiers drilling. We continued to work long after

freedom was declared, not knowing that we were free. One day our

master's son-in-law called us together and told us we were free. Most of

us didn't know what to do but we were glad to get off of that

plantation and away from old man Griffin." With a broad smile he

continued: "Well that is all I can tell you Miss, but come back to see

me again."

With the above remark Mr. Heard Griffin and I closed our interview. He

reminded me, however, that he had been married five times and was the

father of fifteen children, four of whom are still living. His daughter

cares for him and tries to make his old age as happy and comfortable as

she can without the aid of relief.

Minerva Davis Minnie Branham Stonestreet facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail