Uncle Ben Horry
From: South Carolina
Mrs. Genevieve W. Chandler
Murrells Inlet, S.C.
UNCLE BEN HORRY
(Uncle Ben lives in his own cabin with his second wife, Stella. Formerly
almost inaccessible, the new Coastal Highway has put Uncle Ben and Aunt
Stella in the world. The rural electricity program has current right at
their door. Aunt Stella was asked 'Why don't you have lights, Aunt
Stella?' and she replied, 'White folks run me if I do that!' So you see
the old couple still live with many old and odd beliefs one being that
the white man only is entitled to the good things--the better things.
Like most old ex-slaves in South Carolina low country, they love and
revere the names and memories of their old masters.)
"Right now, I oldest one from Longwood to Prospect--see dere? (Pointing
to forest wall--great pines and live-oaks in front of the cabin)--Look!
I know when he cleared and plant! Josh Ward have potato there. I have
manure and plant tater. I been here, daughter!" (He pronounces it
'Dater' with a short 'a')
(Aside: "Stella, mind now! Don't quarrel me to-night! What you do?"
Aunt Stella: The second wife--some years his junior--probably 65--"I do
"Got to go up there and cook supper to the Schoolfield house." (This was
Uncle Ben's announcement as he crawled into the car with a bucket in
which were his shoes. He was walking down the Coastal Highway and not
staying where he belonged--on the shoulder!) "Got to cook crab and
ister (oyster). Ain't got much to cook. They don't eat much. Got a gal
there to fry fish. They give me recommend for cook. Been get the sea
foods for 'em for five year. Iron oven the way we raise." (Aside to his
wife) "Stella, if that man come there, see that sack there? Tell that
man I put fire there. Gie 'em fork and knife. Tell 'em eat all he want!"
(Uncle Ben arranges oyster roasts.)
"That man to Schoolfield house want me to stay and sleep wid 'em. All
women gone. Tell me keep the man and lock up the house when he gone. I
tell 'em too much o' tief!"
Lillie: "Aunt Stella, ain't you fraid when Uncle Ben stay out all
Uncle Ben: "Stella keep pot o' water boil and tief come she trow
Visitor: "Uncle Ben tell Lillie bout your father and the whiskey
Uncle Ben: "You see, to Brookgreen we nuster plant rice and my fadder
had the barn key. He kinder boss man. He nuster (used to) take me and go
out woods night time." (Aside to mother of child at pump--"Take care dat
"Fadder take me out woods night time (What you say, Primus?) and I hold
storch (torch) for him see for trash (thrash) out rice what he take out
the barn. Rice been money dem time you know. And he take he rice and
gone on down to town for get he liquor. And he come from town wid
whiskey. Boss find it out. Five or six chillun and always give us
rations. Broke that jug and when they call his name (put rations in pile
you know--pile for every one been in fambly) when they call my fadder
name but a piece o' broken jug there is discourage him from whiskey--.
He come from town and been drop the jug and it break up. And Boss know.
Far as I can remember he keep give 'em that broken jug bout a year. You
see he sponsible for key. Seem like I member right where we go beat that
rice. Pine tree saw off and chip out make as good a mortar as that one I
got. Dan'l, Summer, Define! Define the oldest brother my fadder have.
Young Missus Bess, Florence, Georgia, Alice. Those boys the
musicianer--go round play for the girl."
Aunt Stella: Interrupting, "You orter be carry money with you. Get the
meat. I ain't going no whey (where)."
Lillie: To Primus who has walked up. "Handful back yet?" (Handful
his wife's basket name.)
Primus: "No. This man bacco barn burn up."
Primus: "Mr. Len barn. Must'er been asleep!"
Lillie: "Rich most cure all his'n. Taint mine! Rich tease me. He
say, 'MY bacco; YOUR kitchen!'"
Lillie: "What you all think bout that tale the Elder tell Sunday
bout his Great Uncle and the snakes!"
Stella: (To Uncle Ben) "What you tink bout it? You tink a man truss
to go in cypress hollow wid rattle-snake?"
Uncle Ben: "Let me see how was it!" (Deep thought as he rubbed his
face in his palm; smile as recollection came) "On Rutledge
Plantation a man wouldn't take no beating. Found a large hollow
cypress tree been rotten out long years. Gone in. Lie down sleep.
Fore day wake up! Feel something crawl over him. Nother one crow
like game chicken!" (Negroes all say rattlers crow!) "Smell him.
Crawl over him. Crawl out. Get out."
Stella: "Revents had it wuz a man in a cypress tree and seven--how
much wuz it? Twelve? These twelve monster snake crawl over him. If
you move, he strike."
Uncle Ben: "Right there where Dr. Ward stay had a big old
stable--see these two hole in my jaw. Had a stable high as that
tree. Big Jersey bull gone in there eating that straw like we
thrashing. Big rattle-snake pop 'um. Fell dead."
"How does we mark shoat? Under-bit; upper-bit. Swallow fork in the right
year! And a square crop in the left!
"How much been task? A quarter (acre) if you mashing ground. Ten compass
digging ground. Cutting rice one half acre a day." (awful job.)
Stella: "Plow; harrow 'em."
Ben: "Ain't you mash 'em?"
Stella: "Mash a bed a day three task deep."
Ben: "Mashing raw ground half acre--some quarter. Mash 'em--take
hoe full up them hole, level dem, chop dem big sod!"
Stella: (age 65) "You got a mis-sheen (machine). Ox pull dat
Ben: "Dat mis-sheen come in YOU day, darling! My day I trenching
hoe trench dat! I done dat, Stella. You come on sow in trench lak
(like) dey sow turnip. YOU day got mis-sheen! Ox pull 'em. Great I
AM! Missus, fifteen to old islant (island), twenty silver islant,
(I been Silver Islant. Cross old islant go Silver islant.) Josh
Ward one some four or five hundred acre. Something been here,
darling! Something been here! Left Brookgreen go Watsaw; left
Watsaw gone Longwood. Plant ALL DEM plantation. I work there. Cut
rice there. Cutting rice task been half acre a day.
"Squirrel creek? Cedar tree and cypress hang low. Squirrel love dem
ball. Tree work up wid dem. Good place for go shoot squirrel. Give
'em name Squirrel Creek.
"Bury live? I did hear some talk o' that. I didn't know whether
they bury 'em to scay 'em (scare 'em) or what. I DID hear tell bout
it. I most know that man name. Some these white people that day
something! They either manage you or kill you."
Lillie: (To Primus who was a listener to Uncle Ben standing propped
by a post of the porch where Uncle Ben, Aunt Stella, and the white
"Prime! Why you keep that church door lock Sunday and not let the
Primus: (Grinning--and he hadn't grinned Sunday but steadfastly
shook his head when, after a three hour service, guests thought it
time to go) "Second man next to me, Asham, Secretary, tell me keep
door shet through sacrament.
Ben: (Who is quite deaf--ignoring interruption--when asked about
Oregon Plantation which was owned by a family who, from all
accounts, had a cruel overseer.)
"I didn't have to much to do to Oregon in them dark days. If I go from
Brookgreen, I go Cap'n Josh git my mittment. Anybody bother me I say, 'I
not a run-way nigger! I got mittment!'
"Very FUSS girl--FUSS one I go with name wuz Teena. How many girl? Great
God! I tell you! FUSS one Teena; next Candis. Candis best looking but
Teena duh largest! Go there every Sunday after school. (Oatland
Plantation--blong to Marse Benjamine Allston.) Stay till sunset. Got to
have paper. Got to carry you paper. Dem patroller put you cross a log!
Beat you to death. I see them beat Ben Sharp. Beat 'em till Ben kin
hardly git cross fence. Jump over fence give 'em last chop! Patroll jess
like road men now! (Stella! That man ain't coming! I got to go! Got to
cook my supper. Cook dem crab--) Blood! Christ! Yes, man. Listen me.
Lemme tell you what I see wid my eye now! (here he pried both eyes wide
with his ten fingers) If I much of age reckon they have to kill me! I
see gash SO LONG (measuring on fore-finger) in my Mama--my own Mama!
(aside to Lillie) I shame fore Miss Jinny! If one them driver want you
(want big frame gal like you Lillie!) they give you task you CAN'T DO.
You getting this beating not for you task--for you flesh!"
Lillie: "That why nation get mix up so!" (Races)
Ben: "Susan wuz a house woman, to buckra woman like a you to Miss
Jin. (Susan worked in the house--no field hand--like Lillie works
for Miss Jin) To my knowing she had three white chillun. Not WANT
'em. HAB 'em. Boy (you know 'em Lill) near bout clean as them boy
of Missus! Tief chillun show up so! Woman over-power! My mother
nuss (nurse.) Get up so high--natural nuss for white people.
"Place they call duh 'Bull Pen.' In 'Bull Pen' thing they call 'PONY'.
Got to go on there--on the 'PONY.'
Lillie: "RIDE you on it, Uncle Ben?"
Ben: "Ain't going ride you on 'PONY'; going RIDE YOU! I stay there look
wid DESE HERE (eyes)! Want you to know one thing--MY OWN DADDY DERE
couldn't move! Couldn't venture dat ober-sheer! (Colored overseer)
Everybody can't go to boss folks! (Meaning only house servants could
contact Missus and Massa). Some kin talk it to Miss Bess. Everybody
don't see Miss Bess. Kin see the blood of dat ober-sheer fuss year atter
Freedom; and he blood there today! Atter Freedom mens come from French
Broad and you know the colored people--we go there whey (where) they
music. Agrippa--daddy name Parrish--Redmond one he child outside.
(Outside chillun are those not born to a man's legal wife) He say, to
gal, 'Go that barn!' YOU GO. You could yeddy him SLAP cross dat creek!
When fowl crow (daylight) and you yeddy him SQUALL, you best git to
flat! I stand dere and my Daddy HAVE to stand dere and see! Josh Ward
from French Broad--hundred mile away. (Boss Massa 'summering it' in
mountains) and negro over seer--just fresh out of Africa TURNED LOOSE.
White obersheer a little different for one reason! White obersheer want
to hold his job. (On Waccamaw--and same true of all south as all
know--white overseers worst kind of 'White trash'--respected less by
negroes than by whites) Nigger obersheer don't care too much. He know he
going stay on plantation anyhow.
"Now, dater, I tell you bout the loom and weaving next time!"
And we left Uncle Ben Horry--age 87
Murrells Inlet, S.C.
to go on 'to the Schoolfield house and cook supper for a house-party.
This week he stepped up to Con-o-way. Says he had to walk it twice a
week--formed the habit when he was on old river Steamer Burroughs and
had to walk up to Conway Monday and back home Saturday. About thirty
miles (or more from his place) to Conway. At 87 he still takes this
little exercise almost weekly. Having such a struggle holding on to his
land. All the lawyers saying 'sign here' and trying to rob him! Poor
Uncle Ben needs desperately a Massa to help him out with his land. Not
many Uncle Ben's left to be robbed--
(told that the cruel negro overseer was shot down after Freedom--blood
still on ground (according to Uncle Ben) because he led Yankees to where
silver, etc., was buried. Have heard story from other old livers.)
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