Snovey Jackson

[TR: date stamp MAY 8 1937]



Ruth A. Chitty--Research Worker

Aunt Snovey Jackson, crippled and bent with rheumatism, lives in a cabin

set in the heart of a respectable white neighborhood. Surrounded by

white neighbors, she goes her serene, independent way. The years have

bequeathed her a kindly manner and a sincere interest in the fairness

and justice of things. Wisdom and judgment are tempered with a sense of


"My name is Snovey Jackson--S-n-o-v-e-y, dat's the way I spells it. D'

ain't nary 'nother Snovey Jackson in de South. I was bawned in

Clarksville, Va., and owned by one Captain Williams of Virginia. I don'

know jes' 'zackly how old I is, but I must be 'bout 80.

"I was jes' a small chap 'bout three or fo' years old when my folks

'cided to come to Georgia to raise cotton. You see we didn't raise no

cotton in Virginia--nutten' 'cept wool and flax. De people in Virginia

heerd 'bout how cotton was growed down here and how dey was plenty o'

labor and dey come by the hund'eds to Georgia. Back in dem days dey

warn't no trains, and travel was slow, so dey come in gangs down here.

Jes' like dey had de boom down in Florida few years back, dat's de way

people rushed off to Georgia to git rich quick on cotton.

"When they got here it warn't nutten' like dey thought it was go'n be.

Dey thought dey could make cotton 'dout no trouble, and dey'd rake in de

money. My folks lef' me in Virginia 'cause I was too li'l' to be any

help, and dey thought dey could get plenty o' cheap labor here. (I'se

talkin' 'bout fo' de war broke out.) Of course Virginia was a slave

breedin' state, and niggers was sold off jes' like stock. Families was

all broke up and never seed one 'nother no mo'.

"I don't even know who my mother and father was. I never knowed what

'come of 'em. Me and my two little brothers was lef' in Virginia when

Captain Williams come to Georgia. De specalators got hol' o' us, and dey

refugeed us to Georgia endurin' o' de war. Niggers down here used to be

all time axin' me where my folks was, and who dey was--I jes' tell 'em

de buzzards laid me and de sun hatch me.

"After we was brought to Georgia Mr. James Jackson bought me. I never

knowed what 'come of my brothers. The specalators had tried to keep us

together, but we got all separated. I ain't got no kin in the world

today dat I knows 'bout.

"De Jacksons owned a plantation in Baldwin County, but dey sold it and

moved to LaGrange, Georgia. We lived dere 'til after de war was on, den

dey move back to Baldwin County. Old Miss lost her son-in-law, and later

her husband died, den her daughter died. She had a little grandchild, a

boy, her daughter's child, to raise. She used to say she had two pets,

one pet black child and one pet white child. She was good to me. I never

got no punishin's.

"Old Miss had a lot of kin folks here--high class folks. Dey was stomp

down Virginians, too. Dey use to call me dey kin. Miss Kizzie Weiderman

was a niece o' old Miss Jackson's, and she used to come down the street

and say, 'Look here, ain't dat some o' my kin?--Come shake hands wid

me.' Miss Kizzie was a sight. She alluz say when she die she want all

her nigger kin to come and look on her dead body.

"Finally old Miss got dissatisfied and she 'cided de best thing for her

to do was to sell her home and farm here and go to Chicago to live wid

her son. Dat lef' me to seek 'nother home, 'cause I didn't want to go

off up dere. So we parted.

"I come to town den (it was in 1877) and found work wid de Agent o' the

Central o' Georgia Railroad here in Milledgeville. My Mistis den was

Mrs. Ann Bivins. She was good to me, and when they went away, she say,

'Snovey, ef'n I had the money, nuttin' but death could separate me and

you.' Den the Nesbits was made de Agent, and I work fifty years at dat

Central depot. I used to get up eve'y mawnin' and cook breakfas' for all

de section hands, den I'd go to de house and cook for de family. Child,

I jes' worked myself to death. All my folks gone away now. De Nesbits

live in Florida. I sends 'em a bag o' nuts eve'y Christmas, and dey

sends me a box o' oranges. Sometime dey comes here to see me.

"I mus' tell you how de Yankees done when dey come th'ough here. I was

wid old Miss Jackson at dat time. We live over de river. I was a small

chap not big enough to do nothing much 'cept nuss old Miss. We heard de

Yankees was comin', and did dey ruin eve'thing! Why Milledgeville was

jes' tore up; twon't nuttin mo'n a cow pasture when de Yankees got

th'ough wid it. Dey tuck all de stock and cattle what folks had, and

burned and 'stroyed eve'ything. After de war was breakin' up, we heerd

de soldiers was comin' through here and was go'n pass Town Creek on de

way to Sparta, and on from Sparta to Warrenton, and from Warrenton to

Augusta. I lost record after dat. Some said it was go'n be 15,000

soldiers passing th'ough. We all wanted to see them. I axed old Miss to

lemme go to Sand Town to see 'em. She lemme go. Hit was a crowd of us

went in a big wagon. We did see 'bout 5,000 soldiers. I was 'bout 8 or 9

years old. I 'members jes' as well how dey looked--some of 'em had

canteens. Dey was tryin' to git back home. Dey seemed all bewildered

like. I had alluz been skeered o' soldiers, but after I seen dem I

warn't skeered no mo'.

"I had alluz wanted to own a little piece of land, and have me a one

room hut like other niggers had. After I started to cookin' for de white

folks at de Central depot, I 'cided I'd buy me a home. So I got my eyes

on a piece of property I wanted and I started to 'vestigatin' it. It

seemed like a heap o' money and me making sech a li'l' bit. I found out

Mrs. Ann duBignon owned de square I wanted, so I went to see her son, de

lawyer. He say, 'Snovey, you can't buy dat lot. You ain't got a chance

in de world to pay for it.'

"I warn't satisfied wid dat, so I walked out to where old Miss Ann lived

at Scottsboro, and I talked to her. She say she was anxious to git a

buyer, but she didn't want to worry wid small payments on it, and if I

could finance it, she'd sell. Well, I studied and studied, and I

figgered and figgered, and my little wages for a whole year, even if I

didn't spend a penny for nuttin', was mighty little. So I went down to

see Mr. Samuel Walker. He owned jes' 'bout all de land in Baldwin County

what he had got by loans to people dat give de land as security and

never could pay off. So we talked things over, and he let me have de

money to pay Miss for de square. Mind you dis here was all jes' a field

and woods den. Look at it now!" She proudly pointed out the modern homes

and streets.

"At de end of dat fus' year, here come Mr. Walker. 'Well, Snovey, how

you gittin' 'long?' he say.

"'I'se gittin' 'long fine Mr. Walker.'

"'Well, what you go'n' do 'bout dis land?'

"I was ready for him. He thought he was go'n' come down and take de

land, 'cause he knowed I didn't have de money to pay off. But I was

waitin' fer him.

"'I'se ready, Mr. Walker, to settle up.' Was he surprised! He sho' was

disappointed. Lot o' folks has wanted my property. Finally Judge Allen

persuaded me to sell him enough to build his home. Den Mr. Bone come

'long, and he wanted to build here. So you see I done sold off several

lots, and I still owns part o' my square. Dis here old nigger been de

foundation of dem homes you see dere.

"I could be a grand counselor now. If I could live my days over I'd show

'em all sumpin'. Like a rollin' stone, up and down, so de world go'n'

move on. I been a heap o' help to folks in my day. I done made a way out

o' no way.

"I ain't never married, never had no chillun, and de niggers says I

alluz been a house-bird. I suffers a heap wid rheumatism now. Dat's de

reason you see me all bent over disaway. I can't hardly raise up from my

waist. I looks mighty feeble but I done out-lived a lot o' 'em. Some

years ago when dey was buildin' dat fine home up dere on de lot they

bought from me, de contractor boarded right across dere from me wid Mrs.

Sims, and he used to say, 'Aunt Snovey, how 'bout sellin' me dis corner

lot to build me a marble house on? You might not be here much longer,

and I sho' love to have dis corner lot.'

"I used to laugh and tell him I might eat de goose dat ate de grass dat

growed on his grave. Sho' 'nough, he died here some years ago."

"Aunt Snovey, what are you going to do with all your property--you have

no family and no relatives?"

"Well, dis property was here when I come here."

"Haven't you made a will?"

"Me? No mam. Some fellow'll git it. I can't say who'll git it. I better

not say."

"Aunt Snovey, I would like so much to have these old chairs you have

here--how about selling them to me?"

"Child, I can't tell you de folks is wanted dem chairs. I has to have

sumpin' to use. Folks done traded me out o' fust one thing then another.

You see dat table? Mrs. Bone up here swapped me one she had for one I

had she wanted. I ain't worrying about what's go'n' become o' things

when I'se gone. It was all here when I come here, and it'll be here when

I die.

"I'se a old-fashioned Missionary Baptis'. I used to go to de white

folks' church. Dat's where I got my dip. We fared a heap better back in

dem times dan we does now."

"Aunt Snovey do you have any pet superstitions?"

"Go on way from here, child, I ain't got nuttin' to do wid

superstitions. My old Miss never 'lowed me to believe in no signs and

sech like. I could dig up a lot of sorrow in my life, but dat wouldn't

do no good.

"I never did believe in bumpin' 'bout, so dat's why I settled down here

and made up my mind to have me a home. You see dis ain't no fine home,

but it's mine and it's paid for. Some day when I can afford it, I'se

go'n' try to finish de inside o' dis house. I got one room ceiled, and

maybe some day I can finish it. I don't believe in taking on no bigger

load dan I can git up de hill wid. I'se seed folks go th'ough de

machinery o' extravagance, and it'll eat you up sho'. I'se skeerd o'

debts as I is o' a rattlesnake, but debts in de right sense makes you

industrious. And I'se learned dis much--that a line fence and a dog

creates more fuss dan anything in de world."

Sneed Teague Solbert Butler facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail