Susan Castle



1257 W. Hancock Ave.

Athens, Georgia

Written by:

Sadie B. Hornsby


Edited by:

Sarah H. Hall



John N. Booth

District Supervisor

Federal Writers' Project

Augusta, Georgia

On a beautiful morning in April, the interviewer found Susan sitting in

the door of her cabin. When asked if she would like to talk about the

old plantation days, she replied; "Yes Ma'am, I don't mind tellin' what

I know, but for dat I done forgot I sho' ain't gwine make nothin' up.

For one thing, I ain't never lived on no plantation. I was a house

servant in town." She added: "Do you mind me axin' you one favor?"

Consent was given and she continued: "Dat is, please don't call me Aunt

Susan; it makes me feel lak I was a hundred years old.

"I was borned in Clarke County, March 7, 1860; I believes dat's what dey

say. Mudder was named Fannie and Pappy's name was Willis. Us chillun

called 'im Pappy lak he was de onliest one in de world. He fust belonged

to Marse Maxwell of Savannah, Georgia. I was so little I disremembers

how Pappy come by de name of Castle. In all de seben of us chillun, I

didn't have but one brudder, and his name was Johnny. My five sisters

was Mary, Louvenia, Rosa, Fannie, and Sarah. All I 'members 'bout us as

chilluns was dat us played lak chilluns will do.

"In de quarters us had old timey beds and cheers, but I'll tell you whar

I slept most times. Hit was on a cot right at de foot of Mist'ess' bed.

I stayed at de big house most of de time at night, and 'fore bedtime I

sot close by Mist'ess on a foot stool she had special for me.

"All I ricollects 'bout my gran'ma was she belonged to General Thomas

R.R. Cobb, and us called 'im Marse Thomas. Gran'ma Susan wouldn't do

right so Marse Thomas sold her on de block.

"Us had evvything good to eat. Marse Thomas was a rich man and fed 'is

Niggers well. Dey cooked in a big open fireplace and biled greens and

some of de udder vittals in a great big pot what swung on a rack. Meat,

fish and chickens was fried in a griddle iron what was sot on a flat

topped trivet wid slits to let de fire thoo. Dey called it a trivet

'cause it sot on three legs and hot coals was raked up under it. Hoe

cakes made out of cornmeal and wheat flour sho' was good cooked on dat

griddle. 'Tatoes was roasted in de ashes, and dey cooked bread what dey

called ash cake in de ashes. Pound cake, fruit cake, light bread and

biscuits was baked in a great big round pot, only dey warn't as deep as

de pots dey biled in; dese was called ovens. Makes me hongry to think

'bout all dem good vittals now.

"Oh! Yes Ma'am, us had plenty 'possums. Pappy used to cotch so many

sometimes he jest put 'em in a box and let us eat 'em when us got ready.

'Possums tasted better atter dey was put up in a box and fattened a

while. Us didn't have many rabbits; dey warn't as much in style den as

dey is now, and de style of eatin' 'possums lak dey done in slav'ry

times, dat is 'bout over. Dey eats 'em some yet, but it ain't stylish no

mo'. Us chillun used to go fishin' in Moore's Branch; one would stand on

one side of de branch wid a stick, and one on de udder side would roust

de fishes out. When dey come to de top and jump up, us would hit 'em on

de head, and de grown folks would cook 'em. Dere warn't but one gyarden,

but dat had plenty in it for evvybody.

"In summer time us wore checkedy dresses made wid low waistes and

gethered skirts, but in winter de dresses was made out of linsey-woolsey

cloth and underclothes was made out of coarse unbleached cloth.

Petticoats had bodice tops and de draw's was made wid waistes too. Us

chillun didn't know when Sunday come. Our clothes warn't no diffu'nt den

from no udder day. Us wore coarse, heavy shoes in winter, but in summer

us went splatter bar feets.

"Marse Thomas was jest as good as he could be, what us knowed of 'im.

Miss Marion, my Mist'ess, she won't as good to us as Marse Thomas, but

she was all right too. Dey had a heap of chillun. Deir twin boys died,

and de gals was Miss Callie, Miss Sallie, Miss Marion (dey called her

Miss Birdie), and Miss Lucy, dat Lucy Cobb Institute was named for. My

mudder was Miss Lucy's nuss. Marse Thomas had a big fine melonial

(colonial) house on Prince Avenue wid slave quarters in de back yard of

his 10-acre lot. He owned 'most nigh dat whole block 'long dar.

"Oh! dey had 'bout a hundred slaves I'm sho', for dere was a heap of

'em. De overseer got 'em up 'bout five o'clock in de mornin' and dat

breakfust sho' had better be ready by seben or else somebody gwine to

have to pay for it. Dey went to deir cabins 'bout ten at night. Marse

was good, but he would whup us if we didn't do right. Miss Marion was

allus findin' fault wid some of us.

"Jesse was de car'iage driver. Car'iages was called phaetons den. Dey

had high seats up in front whar de driver sot, and de white folks sot in

de car'iage below. Jesse went to de War wid Marse Thomas, and was wid

him when he was kilt at Fred'ricksburg, Virginia. I heard 'em sey one of

his men shot 'im by mistake, but I don't know if dat's de trufe or not.

I do know dey sho' had a big grand fun'al 'cause he was a big man and a

general in de War.

"Some of de slaves on Marse Thomas' place knowed how to read. Aunt Vic

was one of de readers what read de Bible. But most of de Niggers didn't

have sense enough to learn so dey didn't bother wid 'em. Dey had a

church way downtown for de slaves. It was called Landon's Chapel for

Rev. Landon, a white man what preached dar. Us went to Sunday School

too. Aunt Vic read de Bible sometimes den. When us jined de chu'ch dey

sung: 'Amazing Grace How Sweet de Sound.'

"Marse Thomas had lots of slaves to die, and dey was buried in de

colored folks cemetery what was on de river back of de Lucas place. I

used to know what dey sung at fun'als way back yonder, but I can't bring

it to mind now.

"No Ma'am, none of Marse Thomas' Niggers ever run away to de Nawth. He

was good to his Niggers. Seems lak to me I 'members dem patterollers run

some of Marse Thomas' Niggers down and whupped 'em and put 'em in jail.

Old Marse had to git 'em out when dey didn't show up at roll call next


"Marse Thomas allus put a man or de overseer on a hoss or a mule when he

wanted to send news anywhar. He was a big man and had too many slaves to

do anything hisse'f.

"I 'spect dey done den lak dey does now, slipped 'round and got in

devilment atter de day's wuk was done. Marse Thomas was allus havin'

swell elegant doin's at de big house. De slaves what was house servants

didn't have no time off only atter dinner on Sundays.

"Christmas was somepin' else. Us sho' had a good time den. Dey give de

chilluns china dolls and dey sont great sacks of apples, oranges, candy,

cake, and evvything good out to de quarters. At night endurin' Christmas

us had parties, and dere was allus some Nigger ready to pick de banjo.

Marse Thomas allus give de slaves a little toddy too, but when dey was

havin' deir fun if dey got too loud he sho' would call 'em down. I was

allus glad to see Christmas come. On New Year's Day, de General had big

dinners and invited all de high-falutin' rich folks.

"My mudder went to de corn shuckin's off on de plantations, but I was

too little to go. Yes Ma'am, us sho' did dance and sing funny songs way

back in dem days. Us chillun used to play 'Miss Mary Jane,' and us would

pat our hands and walk on broom grass. I don't know nothin' 'bout

charms. Dey used to tell de chillun dat when old folks died dey turned

to witches. I ain't never seed no ghostes, but I sho' has felt 'em. Dey

made de rabbits jump over my grave and had me feelin' right cold and

clammy. Mudder used to sing to Miss Lucy to git her to sleep, but I

don't 'member de songs.

"Marster was mighty good to his slaves when dey got sick. He allus sont

for Dr. Crawford Long. He was de doctor for de white folks and Marster

had him for de slaves.

"My mudder said she prayed to de Lord not to let Niggers be slaves all

deir lifes and sho' 'nough de yankees comed and freed us. Some of de

slaves shouted and hollered for joy when Miss Marion called us togedder

and said us was free and warn't slaves no more. Most of 'em went right

out and left 'er and hired out to make money for deyselfs.

"I stayed on wid my mudder and she stayed on wid Miss Marion. Miss

Marion give her a home on Hull Street 'cause mudder was allus faithful

and didn't never leave her. Atter Miss Marion died, mudder wukked for

Miss Marion's daughter, Miss Callie Hull, in Atlanta. Den Miss Callie

died and mudder come on back to Athens. 'Bout ten years ago she died.

"I wukked for Mrs. Burns on Jackson Street a long time, but she warn't

no rich lady lak de Cobbs. De last fambly I wukked for was Dr. Hill. I

nussed 'til atter de chillun got too big for dat, and den I done de

washin' 'til dis misery got in my limbs."

When asked about marriage customs, she laughed and replied: "I was

engaged, but I didn't marry though, 'cause my mudder 'posed me marryin'.

I had done got my clothes bought and ready. Mrs. Hull helped me fix my

things. My dress was a gray silk what had pearl beads on it and was

trimmed in purple.

"What does I think 'bout freedom? I think it's best to be free, 'cause

you can do pretty well as you please. But in slav'ry time if de Niggers

had a-behaved and minded deir Marster and Mist'ess dey wouldn't have had

sich a hard time. Mr. Jeff Davis 'posed freedom, but Mr. Abraham Lincoln

freed us, and he was all right. Booker Washin'ton was a great man, and

done all he knowed how to make somepin' out of his race.

"De reason I jined de church was dat de Lord converted me. He is our

guide. I think people ought to be 'ligious and do good and let deir

lights shine 'cause dat's de safest way to go to Heben."

At the conclusion of the interview Susan asked: "Is dat all you gwine to

ax me? Well, I sho' enjoyed talkin' to you. I hopes I didn't talk loud

'nough for dem other Niggers to hear me, 'cause if you open your mouth

dey sho' gwine tell it. Yes Ma'am, I'se too old to wuk now and I'se

thankful for de old age pension. If it warn't for dat, since dis misery

tuk up wid me, I would be done burnt up, I sho' would. Good-bye


Susan Bledsoe Susan Dale Sanders facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail