William Henry Davis

Project 1885-(1)

Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis

Place, Marion, S. C.

Date, August 20, 1937


Ex-Slave, 72 Years

"I born de first day of March in 1865 cause de white folks raise me

mostly en dat how-come I know how old I ought to say I is. My father

belong to de old man Jackie Davis, dat live not so far from Tabernacle,

en den he fall to he son, Mr. William J. Davis. Dat whe' I was raise. My

grandfather, old man Caesar, live dere too."

"I never been treated exactly as de other plantation peoples was as it

just like I tellin you, I be round de white folks mostly. My mamma, she

do all de cooking to de big house en dere be a division in de Missus

kitchen for de cook en she chillun to stay in. Sometimes my Massa make

my mamma feed all de small plantation chillun dere to de kitchen from de

table. Dey want de chillun to hurry en grow en dat de reason dey give em

good attention at de house. Dey give us milk en clabber en corn bread to

eat mostly en give us fritters some of de time. Dat was fried wheat

bread what some people call pancakes. Used to give me job to mind de

cows en de calves when dey was put to grazing."

"All de other colored peoples live in de nigger quarter up on de hill.

Just like de white people house here, de colored people house all be in

row pretty much off from de big house. Oh, de people was meant to work

in dat day en time. De white folks teach em en show em what dey look for

em to do. Den if dey didn' do it like dey tell em do it, dey chastise


"It just like I tellin you, de people fare wid abundance of everything

in dem days. Destroy much meat in one month den as de people gets hold

of in whole year dese days. It was just dis way, everybody know to have

fence round bout dey plantation den en de hogs could run anywhe'. All de

field land was fence en de woods was for de run of de stock. Dey mark em

en some of de time, dey hear tell of stock 10 mile away. Know em by de


"Peoples didn' have heap of all kind of things dat dey have dese days,

but somehow it look like dey have a knack of gettin along better wid

what dey have den. Didn' have no stoves to cook on in dem days. Cook in

clay oven en on de fireplace. Make up fire en when it die down, dey put

tatoes (potatoes) in de oven en let em stay dere all night. My God, won'

nothin no better den dem oven tatoes was. Some of de time, dey have wire

in de chimney wid de pots hanging on dat. Folks used to make up a cake

of corn bread en pat it on de hearth en when de fire burn right low, dey

cover de cake all up in pile of ashes. When it get done, it be brown

through de ashes en dey take it out en wash en rub all de ashes off it.

Den it was ready to eat. Dat what dey call ash cake. Just seem like what

de peoples used to cook be sweeter eatin den what dey cooks dis day en


"Oh, I beat rice many a day. Yes'um, beat rice many a day for my

grandmother en my mamma too. Had a mortar en a pestle dat beat rice

wid. Dey take big tree en saw log off en set it up just like a tub. Den

dey hollow it out in de middle en take pestle dat have block on both it

end en beat rice in dat mortar. Beat it long time en take it out en fan

it en den put it back. De last time it put back, tear off some shucks en

put in dere to get de red part of de rice out en make it white. Ain'

nobody never been born can tell you more bout dem pestles en mortars den

William Henry Davis know."

"Yes'um, used to go to corn shuckings en rye thrashings en pea

thrashings plenty times. Oh, dey sing en have music en have big pot

cookin out in de yard wid plenty rice en fresh meat for everybody. Dere

be so many people some of de time, dey had to have two or three pots.

Den dey have dem log rollings to clean up de land en when dey would get

to rollin dem heavy logs, dey give de men a little drink of whiskey to

revive em, but dey gage how much dey give em. O Lord, we had tough time

den. After dey get through wid all de work, dey would eat supper den.

Give us rice en corn bread en fresh meat en coffee en sweet tatoe pone.

My Lord, dat sweet tatoe pone was de thing in dem days. Missie, you ain'

never eat no pone bread? Dey take piece of tin en drive nails through it

en grate de raw tatoes on dat. Den dey take a little flour en hot water

en molasses en mix up in dem raw tatoes en bake it in de oven on de

fireplace. Have lid to oven en put fire under de bottom of it en on de

top to get it right done. Some of de time, dey put a little ginger in it

fore it was baked. Cut it in big slices when it get done, but wouldn'

never eat it till dey know it was cold. Missie, de older I gets de more

I does sorrow to go back to dem old constructions dat dey used to have."

"Some of de colored peoples have bresh (brush) shelter whe' dey go to

church in dem days, but all us go to de white folks church. Oh, de

colored peoples go in ox carts, but us white folks have teams en

carriage to ride in. I recollects Mr. Davis carriage look sorta like a

house wid two big horses to pull it. De family would be in de inside en

have seats whe' dey set facing one another. De driver have seat on de

outside in de front en on de back of de carriage was de place to set de


"My daddy was de blacksmith for Mr. Jackie Davis en he could make plows

en hoes en all dem kind of things. He have a circuit dat he go round en

mend things on other white folks plantations. Some of de time, he bring

back more den $100.00 to he boss dat he would make. Go all bout in dat

part of Marion county dat be part of Florence county dose times."

"I hear some peoples say dey knows dere such as ghosts, but I ain' never

have no mind in dat line. All I know bout is what my mamma used to tell

us big chillun when she want us to stay home wid de little chillun en

mind em. Say dere was Raw Head en Bloody Bones in de woods en if us go

off, de child might set de house on fire. Such as dat was to make us

stay home when dey was gone."

"It just dis way, I think freedom a good thing for some people while it

a bad thing for de ones dat don' have a knack to shuffle for dey own

self. When freedom come, some of de colored people didn' know what

freedom was en dey just hang around dey white folks en look to dey Massa

for what dey get right on. Wouldn' get off en make nothin for dey own

self. Dat how-come I think it better for some not to be free cause so

much of worryations ain' good for peoples. Colored peoples never had to

worry bout nothin in slavery time."

Source: William Henry Davis, age 72, ex-slave, Wahee section

of Marion Co., S. C.

Personal interview, August 1937.

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