This was sent to me by a follower. I remembered that I had read it on the Union Parish Archives that Dr. Tim Hudson is the administrator of and want to give credit where it is due. Chuck Kinnison had submitted the article to the archives.
WRITTEN IN 1926 AT THE AGE OF 84 YEARS
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION:
To gratify the insistent desire of children, grandchildren, and friends, I shall begin a book of reminiscences. Some have suggested that an unvarnished life story, if frankly and simply told, might be of interest and help to others.
In the careful introspection of my life I realize I have achieved so little; that there is not much to tell. Material for a book, the foundation of which depends on the gleamings from a “child’s” life which began more than three-fourths of a century ago, will be mixed with much that is of little interest to anyone but the writer.
While unraveling the threads that were used in the woven garment, many knots had to be tied, leaving the blemishes of neglected opportunities. Still, with the many imperfections, I am glad to say there are also happy reflections of the opportunities embraced. The seeming egotism in the book will be pardoned when it is observed that I am trying to give honor to the Great Friend who inspires the hearts of the willing and obedient.
PART 1: THE FIRST HOME
I was born on a farm near Hamburg, Perry County, Alabama in 1842. Elias George and mother, Ann Bass George, were the parents of nine children,–four sons and five daughters, of whom I was third from the youngest. All lived to maturity, married and raised families, except one brother, “Jeffy” , two years my senior, who at the age of eight years was thrown from a runaway horse.
My parents were missionary Baptists, and we were early taught to reverence the name of Jesus, respect the Sabbath day, be kind and charitable to the poor, to servants, and to animals. There was family worship every night before retiring, and my mother would have the servants come in and to join us at such times. We were a happy family because children and servants were taught obedience to those who ruled them. We loved our servants and they loved us.
My father, being a slaveholder, had a large plantation on which many supplies for home consumption were raised, such as corn, cotton, potatoes, barley, and peas. The home was a large, rambling two-storied building, and each of the various rooms had a fireplace. But the room that charmed me most was the nursery,–a large room with windows facing southward, overlooking the pasture, and in the springtime there was much interest in the horses and the little lambs as they chased each other and gamboled in the field.
Our black mammy Chloe, was installed as guardian and caretaker of the nursery. Its inmates included three children, from one to five years old and two nurse girls, Mariah and Harriet, who were ten and eleven years old. The girls, under the supervision of mammy Chloe, would see to our bathing, dressing, and feeding. When the weather permitted, we were kept out doors in the sunshine and although the girls ran and played with us, our black mammy was ever near and watchful that no harm befell us.
It is difficult to make it understood what love we had for Mammy and the girls. This attachment lasted even to old age. Mammy died just a few years (original sheet cut off).
I would not have one think that our precious mother neglected her little children under these conditions and surroundings. She had duties devolving upon her, which could not be done by others. There were nine children to clothe and feed. While she had servants who cooked, washed, ironed and sewed, she supervised each department. There were no sewing machines nor ready-made clothing. We were strangers to most of the conveniences in common use today. Even soap and candles were made at the plantation. My father raised everything possible at home and a yearly trip to New Orleans resulted in the equivalent of a carload of provisions, dress goods from England or New England and many other things needed for the plantation. Oranges, apples, dried fruits, and candy were bought by the barrel.
How well do I remember the picturesque surroundings of our home. There was a long sloping hill to the rear of the house, at the foot of which was a cold, gushing spring, and directed channels went forth to the house lot, chicken yard, and other needed places. A milk house was built over this spring, the floor of which was laid of large, flat rocks, so arranged that the stream was conducted over a channel two or three inches lower than the floor and wide enough to hold several pans of milk and butter.
Our home was surrounded with mocking birds, swamp sparrows, field larks, whip-poor-wills, blue jays, and cardinals. They were never disturbed and consequently, many became quite tame, often feeding with the chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, and peafowls. The whip-poor-wills could be heard at night in the swamp below, sometimes coming into the garden as though they wanted to serenade us from the branch of an oak tree near the house. I recall an evening twilight when one ventured on the lawn near the house-steps and called lustily ” Whip-poor-will! Whip-poor-will!” and after satisfying himself, he flew to his companions in the swamp and soon the air was filled with their ” Whip-poor-will”! and “whip-will, the widow!” Their concert lasted through the night, interrupted occasionally by the deep, sonorous voice of an owl loudly calling, ” WHO! WHO! WHO! WHO! WHO! ARE YOU!”. The loud laugh of another owl answered, ” WAH! WAH! WAH!”. I would often lie awake (original page cut off) of sounds was in harmonious and weird; nevertheless, their singing kept me from being lonely on wakeful nights.
I can’t leave this subject without taking you to the squabbery, which had to be entered by climbing a stairway into a large room built in the poultry yard. It had hundreds of nests built in the wall. I often went with Mary, the maid to get squabs for breakfast and many were given to the neighbors.
Other impressions of this home were the negro quarters which were a half-mile from the house. And there was a summer-house covered with coral and French honeysuckle vines where the mocking birds often built their nests. Also, there were the flowers which grew profusely along the branch and filled the air with their fragrance.
These are the memories of my first home.
PART 2: MIGRATION TO LOUISIANA
NOTE: The first page of this chapter is missing. She is evidently describing the wonders of the new country in Louisiana which induced her father to sell his home and migrate to Louisiana in 1848.
_____________________contributant (bayous, creeks, and branches) flowing in every direction, with cane breaks and swamps and filled with deer, bear panthers, wolves; all of which helped to enhance the reports previously given him by friends,—to say nothing of the natural growth of several kinds of fruits and nuts.
It is needless to say that the dear old home where my mother and father had lived since their marriage and which had been the birthplace of their nine children, was doomed. Also, a beautiful new home near Marion, Alabama was being completed. This was a large, two-story house, quite modern in all its appointments (for that time). The inside work was superior to anything of its kind today; the plastering was very hard and glazed. The parlor and hall were heavily frescoed around the edges of the ceiling, with a large wreath of flowers in the center of each for the chandeliers. My older sisters and brothers were at the age when they needed to be in college, as they had outgrown the country school. To educate them had been the incentive for building in Marion, as it was a residential city of schools and churches.
But to my father, nothing was too great a sacrifice for this “Land of Paradise” ,—not even the many friends and relatives with their earnest protests, or his popularity as a minister of the gospel. Nothing could outweigh his desire to possess a home in this unexplored wilderness—a venture of toil, self-denial, hardships, and untried experiences. Without taking it to the Lord in prayer, and seeking divine guidance of Him whom he served, he straightway sold his valuable plantation and lovely new home at a sacrifice, and was soon in readiness for the journey by caravan. (bottom of page of original cut off)
parting with life-long friends, one of whom was her favorite sister for whom I was named. She had three sisters who were living in Louisiana, and also her mother, near whom she expected to live. But this pleasure could not compensate for the pain of parting with that precious sister who lived but three months more and whose death was mother’ s first great sorrow.
Early in the spring of 1848, the day for departure arrived. Three or four families decided to cast their lot with us in going west, which at that time was as far distant as is California now. The trip had to be made in private conveyances, drawn by horses and mules, and it would take weeks to reach our destination. Besides this, my father was taking with him 400 Durham cattle which were to be driven by herdsmen.
The caravan included about 50 covered wagons, carriages, carry-alls, and buggies. These and the horseback riders assembled at our home, and many friends came to bid us “un bon voyage” . How well do I remember that first day, which to me seemed a gala affair with many more to follow. I was too young (six years) to realize what it meant to those on whom the burden fell, nor what awaited us in the future. The morning was bright and beautiful, and although the sun gladdened the earth, it was unable to penetrate the gloom which hung like a pall of dark foreboding in the hearts of some who reluctantly bade a last farewell to loved ones.
My mother rode in a carriage with four of her young children; a brother older and a sister and brother younger than I. The driver’ s seat was high in front, and in the style of the period, the nurse’s seat was in the rear. This was supplied with a step or foot rest and arms, as with an armchair. The first day being cold and crisp, mother had the driver stop at a store as we passed through Greensborough, and bought us children beautiful wool hoods and each a tin cup, painted red and blue, with ” Boy” or ” Girl” stamped on it. These were suspended from our necks with ribbons.
The caravan necessarily traveled slowly and when we children were tired of riding, mother would let us get out and walk, always attended by the nurse. (Original page bottom cut off).
Long before night, the captain, (father) always went ahead to find and arrange for a suitable camp ground where wood and water could be obtained, for provisions also to be made for the cattle as well as the teams of mules and horses. Having found such a place, he would wait for the crowd.
The camp ground reached, the overseer of the negroes superintended the location of wagons, tents, and animals. The negroes’ tents were grouped by themselves and the white families were in a different location. Each family of negroes had its separate tent; each woman cooking for her own family, while the men got the wood, attended to the feeding and caring for the stock and pitched the tents. There were log fires in front of family tents, and after all were fed and the little children were in bed, the white families would visit each other,—sit around and exchange experiences and jokes till nine or ten o’ clock. The negroes would have their social time until the gong sounded for retiring; after which quiet soon reigned, except for the occasional lowing or neighing of an animal. At five o’ clock, the gong again sounded and all were up and hustling with preparations to travel. Then at noon, a stop for a couple of hours was made, with rest and lunch for man and beast.
We had to cross the Tombigbee River in Alabama which we found to be a half-mile wide from recent rains. It took two or three days to make the crossing, for the cattle had to be ferried across. Upon taking one load, the cattle became frightened and stampeded, and several leaped from the flat-boat and were carried by the swift current down stream, and two or three of these were never recovered.
Having surmounted this obstacle, we proceeded on our journey with nothing of importance to note except that one night we camped in a lovely grove of oak trees enclosed with a rail or worm fence. A railroad track ran along the outside of this enclosure, and we were warned not to cross the fence; that a train would pass by very soon. We hadn’t waited long when a shrill whistle heralded its approach. We all stopped and gazed at the wonderful monster, as it seemed to me, for in those days, railroads were rare to country people.
At last we reached the Mississippi, which we crossed at Vicksburg on a ferry (bottom of original page cut off) have been indelibly stamped on my young mind. We finally reached our destination which was a beautiful grove of oak trees, in the midst of which was an eight-roomed cottage. Also, there was a summer-house covered with coral honeysuckle and woodbine and in the yard there was an abundance of flowers. My father had purchased this farm with 600 acres of improved land and under cultivation, to serve as a temporary home until there were further developments.
This home was three miles from Marion, a village in north Louisiana, in Union Parish. It was settled and named for Marion, Alabama by its earliest settlers who had come from that place.
PART 3: THE FIRST YEARS IN LOUISIANA
Father had bought 4,000 acres of timbered land within four miles of Marion, which was to be cleared and converted into a plantation,—with cottages for the negroes, a dwelling for the overseer, and with gardens and outhouses. This kept all hands busy for the first year, with only time enough to cultivate the 600 acres of the home place.
Soon after being installed in our new home, my second brother (Frank, 17) and brother Jefferson, 8 years old, started to school in Marion, riding horseback. Coming home one evening, the horse ran away with them; the saddle girth broke, and my younger brother was dashed against a tree. He lived only a few hours. Brother Frank (cousin Onie’s father) after lingering between life and death for several days finally survived. This was mother’s second deep sorrow. Indeed, to all the family, it was the darkest day we had ever known.
In the Fall of that year, a baby girl was born to my oldest brother’s wife. On being told that I was its aunt, I rose several degrees in self-importance in the fact that I, six years old, was an aunt. Seeing sister Mat (baby Josephine’s mother) tatting, I gave her no rest till she had taught me how to do it and I persevered till I had made about a yard which satisfied me for that time, but I never forgot how, and often used this knowledge along the way of life. It was soon after this that mother taught me to knit. There was a negro girl of my age (daughter of the milkmaid) whom mother was training for a house-servant. She was also taught to knit. Mother would measure off five yards of thread; tie a knot; and when we had finished this task we could play for a half-hour; then she would call us and repeat the task. We would race to be the first to finish and in this way we became rapid knitters. At the age of seven, we could each knit stockings from the beginning to the end without help. Mother would have us knit the winter socks for the negro boys who worked on the farm. The thread was spun at home from wool sheared from the flock of sheep,—a flock of four or five hundred. My father had bought them
with the farm also, many hogs. There were numerous milk cows, some of which gave a large bucket of milk twice a day.
The next Fall, found that much had been accomplished in clearing and building, and by the time winter had set in, all the negroes were comfortably housed with large fireplaces in their cabins and good beds and plenty of wood. For our family, a temporary dwelling had been built about a mile from the plantation on a high hill with a good spring of water, and to the rear of the house was a branch running in a ravine. In the spring many wild-flowers filled the air with their fragrance.
After moving into this newly built forest home, five miles from town, my two oldest sisters, Lizzie, 15 and Sue, 13 attended school in Marion, boarding at the home of mother’s brother, Uncle Dick Bass. The carriage was sent for them Friday afternoons, and took them back early Monday mornings.
The Spring following, father began to build a residence in Marion, having purchased 25 acres of land with a bold spring and a branch of fresh water flowing from it, which soon ran through the horse-lot and orchard, all of which was prearranged when planning the home surroundings. Our parents were bending every effort to hasten the time when we could move to town and get those old enough into school.
But alas! alas! ” Man proposes but God disposes.” Although our forest home stood on a beautiful hill, with a spring of pure water,—and to all appearances, a most healthful location, we little dreamed that an enemy was lurking in the air, having risen from the low damp marshes and stagnant pools of water which had not been drained; and that the dying vegetation was filling the atmosphere with poisonous germs and these were inoculating almost every member of the family (white and colored) with yellow fever germs.
We were all infected about the same time the physicians advised the family’s removal to an old and settled place. My grandmother’s home was about four miles distant,—and being unoccupied, we moved into it—carrying four sick children on beds in a carry-all. The children were a sister (Jane), my brother Elias, a colored girl my age, and myself. Two of the house servants (Julia, the cook), and Mary, the house maid, were removed to the plantation. The gardener and the milkmaid escaped. These along with two other women from the farm went with the family as house servants and to help nurse the sick. Everyday, mother rode horse-back to visit Julia and Mary to see that they were properly cared for. Physicians attended them daily and every effort was made to save them,—but all in vain. Mother was heart-broken over this sad calamity for they were almost like her own children, and they were devoted to her. The little negro girl my age who was taken to Grandma Bass’s place, died a few days later. There were no trained nurses in those days, but the neighbors did everything they could in caring for the sick. In a pioneer country, citizens were dependent upon each other in times of adversity.
Our father and mother were almost overwhelmed with grief. Three good servants were dead and three children were expected to die at any time. But the cup of sorrow was not yet full and once more the death angel appeared, taking our faithful, devoted, and precious mother.
She had been for the last time to see her sick servants. She found the maid dead and the cook in a dying condition. Mother prayed with her and comforted her as best she could. Upon leaving, Julia put her arms around mother’ s neck and said, ” Miss Ann, meet me in heaven” .
The next day mother was not feeling well, but did not go to bed. That night, she had a congestive chill, and at four a.m., she went to meet Julia in heaven. Her death was so sudden and unexpected, that father was beside himself with grief and for several months the physicians were afraid he would lose his mind.
We three children were now wholly dependant on relatives, friends and servants. Although mother died in a room across the hall from where we were, we knew nothing of her death till three weeks later. The first thing that seemed to call me back to consciousness was brother Elias crying and begging for mother. Father was holding him on his lap and when he continued to plead, father burst into tears and told him mother had gone to be with God in heaven. With this explanation my brother ceased to call for her. I was too weak, I suppose, to realize the meaning, and never did until we moved back home to begin life anew,—without our dear mother and faithful servants.
I grieved for mother and Sarah, the girl who was my competitor in knitting.
(End of the original page cut off).
…..all the time. Sometimes I wanted cube sugar, and another time, brown sugar; and again it would be sugar cane. Once, I wanted oranges, but none could be had, even in Monroe, which was 60 miles away. But I could not be reconciled, and father sent Carter, the carriage driver and gardener to Lakeport on the Mississippi River, over 100 miles away and told him not to come back without oranges. It took three or four days for the trip, but when he returned with plenty of large, sweet, juicy Florida oranges, I feasted on them till I was satisfied.
Beginning to walk a little, I decided I wanted to go to Aunt Caroline’ s, and seeing that I was determined, Mammy Chloe took me up on her shoulder and carried me over. Dear old Mammy Chloe,—how I loved her. Right here, I want to say that she nursed me when my first child (Paul) was born in my father’s home where we were living during the Civil War. Mammy died during the War.
Aunt Caroline let me stay as long as I desired (several weeks), and when the last strand of hair disappeared from my head, she knitted me a black silk cap. She also bought some red, green, and white material for a quilt and taught me how to sew the squares together into a double-chained square. This was a very wise thing to do, for I was very irritable and discontented, but upon getting busy with my quilt, I was no longer any trouble.
As I grew stronger, my greatest joy was in the garden. It was now Autumn, and the chrysanthemums were in greatest profusion. I had been with mother when she superintended the planting of these flowers. There was a cozy nook with a cape jasmine bush on one side, a frame of honeysuckle vines on the other, and in the rear, a frame of Marshall Neal roses. Here, it seemed, I could realize her presence more than anywhere else, and I was comforted I my quiet solitude. But I missed her more than anyone could realize and my heart ached with its longing, finding relief in tears. Sue, who was now 14, took me under her wing and looked after my every need and ever after maintained that same motherly interest which endeared her to me more than the fondest, most devoted sister. She is still living in her old home in Marion which she and her husband bought soon after the Civil War. She was 90 years old last January 6th of this year (1926). (end of original page cut off)
can realize the strong personal attachment which exists between them. The fact of ownership and responsibility on the part of one, and the childlike dependence of the other formed a mutual love, akin to parent and child; the parent to control and the child to obey.
We were indeed a sad family. My oldest sisters (Lizzie and Sue) had to leave school to be at home with us four younger children,—three of us still invalids, though slowly gaining in health. Sue and Lizzie were children in experience but brave, dear sisters who did what they could. The new house-servants were untrained for domestic work but they were good and willing to learn, and under the supervision of father’s sister, Aunt Caroline McAdams, who lived on a high hilltop nearby, they became quite proficient. Aunt Caroline was a widow with one daughter and three sons, and she did all within her power to mother and care for us. We saw little of father; he was so stricken, yet he sw that we had everything needed. He was so depressed in spirit that he stopped building the house in Marion.
Besides Aunt Caroline, sister Elizabeth cared for us four younger children. The youngest, Linn was four years old; Elias, 6; I, 8; and Jane, 10. Lizzie was a good sister, fond of reading, study, and music. A new piano at this time was company for her and Sue. They did what they could for the happiness of all and we were a peaceful and harmonious household. But we missed our family worship which mother never neglected, nor father, when he was home. But now he stayed on the farm with the overseer, coming home occasionally to see that all was right.
Father was troubled on all sides. His good overseer, whom he brought with him from Alabama, had also died and he hired another who understood very little of superintending a large plantation of negroes and farm work. However, it was a good thing, even a blessing that father had to supervise till the new manager was fully initiated into the routine of duties devolvent on him. The sight of his motherless children was a fresh stab of the dagger to his poor bleeding heart.
The three months’ sickness left me no flesh nor strength. I was so emaciated that they carried me around like a baby. Dr. Traylor, the physician said I could have all the sugar and sugar cane I wanted. I kept a bowl of sugar on the bed-table (bottom of original page cut off).
PART 4: SCHOOL DAYS
A year had passed since dear mother left us and I was stronger, so father decided to send Sue, 15; Jane, 13; and me, 9 to school and board us with Uncle Dick (Bass, mother’s brother) in Marion. Sissy, now 17, had to stay at home to look after Bud (Elias), 7; and Melinda, 5.
I can’t express the great delight and joy when I was permitted to go to school, and to have a slate, book, and a pencil of my own; and to have a lesson assigned me in Webster’s Blue Backed Spelling Book —one of which I have now, and which I treasure as a souvenir of my first school days and which, like myself, remains alone,—a relic of the past.
Marion was then a village of about 20 families, the most of whom were properous farmers with plantations a few miles out in the country. These were cultivated by negroes and supervised by competent white overseers. Though a village in size, Marion had the finest school in north Louisiana. The principal was a highly accomplished lady from Virginia, and her sister was the music teacher. Their names were the Misses Harriet and Mary Whiting, and I want to say that they were the best teachers I ever had,—even better than those in the Judson College.
There were only three of us in the primary class,—and the other two were about my age. All of us were ambitious to excel, and each of us was generally perfect in lessons and deportment. Occasionally, at the end of the month, one would get an average of 99 (100 was perfect). Then, for the other two there would be much grief, but Miss Harriet would promise to cancel the failure if we were perfect in everything the following month. While at school I often had chills and fever, but I could not be induced to go home to be doctored, till Miss Harriet promised to give me my credits if I would study and recite my lessons to Sue, who agreed to hear them and make faithful reports. I would often lie in bed and study while I had fever.
Doctor Traylor, father’s family physician, finally took me from school and kept me in his home for three weeks while he doctored and finally cured me. He was the father of Kate Traylor, one of my classmates and rivals. He was like a dear father and had Kate and me sleep in a trundle bed in his wife’s room. I had every care, with a servant in an adjoining room to be called if needed. Kate and I were devoted friends until her death in Temple, Texas in 1914. I had visited her the previous summer. At this time I lived in San Jose, California, and was returning from Marion where I had been visiting Sister Sue.
Coming back to school,—I began to take music lessons at the age of ten (1852). As I was very fond of music and liked to practice, it was not too many months before I was in Class A,—out of 40 pupils. We had a fine teacher and her recitals, then called concerts, excelled those in larger, more prominent schools. At the age of twelve (1856) my teacher had me learn and play at her recital, a solo with variations which the music teacher of the College in Farmerville, the county seat, had played at one of their concerts, for there was great rivalry between the schools. At this time also, by my father’s request, my teacher had me play “The Battle of Buena Vista”, with cannons, fife, drums, and battle raging. Then I was the principal alto singer and had to supply the need in duets and choruses, as well as in character songs.
I trust that you will bear with this egotism, by recalling that I am writing my autobiography, and am speaking of self as of another person. I reveled in music and art and had made such progress in drawing and water colors that my teacher often called upon me to help her in assisting and finishing the work of her class which was too large for one teacher.
School days in Marion were drawing to a close. Our devoted teachers, Misses Harriet and Mary Whiting, whom we all loved and respected, honored, and obeyed, were leaving. Miss Mary, the music teacher, married a lawyer and located in Omaha. Miss Harriet returned to Virginia and was later married.
Our next teacher proved to be a failure,—many of her pupils being more advanced than she in every way. She was really a “back letter” and did not command the respect of her school. Under our former teachers, we were taught to be courteous and respectful to everyone. We were required to be thorough in each study, and we all seemed to be inspired with an ambition to be first in our studies because we loved our teachers. It was the difference between these teachers that first gave me to understand that respect must go before love. Our parents soon learned their mistake and after one term, discharged her.
The next Fall (1856) father decided to send me and my two stepbrothers, who were 16 and 17 years old, back to school in Marion, Alabama where there was a large female college (The Judson) and male college (The Howard) of 300, and each was a Missionary Baptist college. We had been there only two months when the boys were called to the deathbed of their mother who passed away soon after their return.
I remained throughout the whole term which closed with graduating exercises and a concert,—the grandest it has been my pleasure to hear and in which it was my privilege to have part in several instrumental numbers and choruses. The Concert, with all the closing exercises, was held in the city auditorium and about 150 pupils took part. The first piece on the program was the “Norma March and Variations”. This was one of my numbers. Nine pianos, arranged in a circle on the rostrum faced the center where there was a full orchestra, including an Italian harp. There were 27 performers at the pianos—three at each instrument. I also played in another number with 18 performers at nine
pianos. In a chorus called, ” Scenes that are Brightest”, 17 of us played guitars which were suspended from our shoulders with pink ribbons. The principal of the music department was a German professor. Under his supervision were three music teachers (Ladies) of whose work and efficiency he was responsible. He had a musical family of five boys and girls from eight to sixteen years of age, and each played a different instrument.
We wore uniforms at Judson. Our winter uniform was a green suit with a green dolmen for a wrap. There was no jewelry, not even a breast pin for the collar, which was of plain white linen pinned neatly at the throat, and there were no low necks or short sleeves. In summer, the uniform was pink and white. At the close of the study hour on Saturday night, the Governess, who was in charge would tell us what we were to wear to church the next day. One time, it would be a pink dress and a white berege (fashionable dress material at that time) talma (a circular cape with a bias ruffle). Perhaps the next time
we would be told to wear a white dress and pink talma. The bonnets were white woven mohair, circling around the face and tied under the chin with a bow of pink ribbon. There was no trimming whatsoever, but they were lined with pink and had a circular skirt of pink ribbon with narrow straw braid at the bottom. We wore these summer and winter.
There was no difference shown with richest or poorest; all fared and shared alike. One a month, each girl was permitted to have fifty cents worth of candy, nuts and fruit.
The governess was not a teacher but had general supervision over the girls out of school hours which were from seven to nine p.m. and from five-thirty to six-thirty a.m. She also supervised morning and evening study hours. Breakfast was at seven and school started at eight, with two hours for noon. School then began at two and closed at five. From five to six, we were free to play out in the beautiful grounds or park surrounding the buildings.
The day began at five a.m. with the ringing of a large bell at the top of the College, which was so loud that its peals could be heard all over the city. We sleepy girls had to bathe and dress as best we could in thirty minutes before the school bell rang for study in the assembly room. When the tap bell was given for order and roll call, anyone not answering to his name was marked tardy and received five demerits. I always managed to be present, but once, when I was not feeling well, I stayed in bed till the last minute, when I jumped into slippers and study gown and with stockings in hand, rushed
downstairs to the study hall, reaching my desk just as the bell tapped for silence. That was the nearest I ever came to being tardy during the three terms I spent there.
When I first entered the College, I was assigned to the Junior Class. The first day I went to grammar class, they analyzed sentences, something I had not been taught in our village school. My teacher, however, told me to give attention while (bottom of original page cut off).
About a month later, father came to Alabama on business and visited me. I was so happy I cried for joy and became very homesick. And since I was also discouraged with my schoolwork, pleaded with him to take me home. After much persuasion he consented, and what joy! I began that day to pack my trunk as we were to start the next day.
Bidding friends and teachers goodbye, we took the train the following morning for Selma, where on the Alabama River there was a boat for Mobile and thence we crossed the Gulf to New Orleans. After spending several days in that city, we boarded one of the finest and most popular boats at that time, the ” Doctor Buffington” , which ran from New Orleans to Little Rock. Her patrons were mostly farmers and merchants. There were so few railroads in the country that all transportation was dependent on river navigation. These were fordable in summer but out of service to large steamers, except in the winter.
The boat landed at nine a.m. on the third day of our trip from New Orleans and five of us landed. There was Hattie Bryant, a girl of my age, and two young men from Marion. Father went ahead on horseback to Marion which was ten miles away. Our baggage was sent in a wagon and we had to wait until father sent the carriage for us. But we started walking to meet the carriage and had gone two miles before it approached us.
(1858) I had not been home long when my father began to receive numerous answers to an advertisement which he had placed in the ” New Orleans Picayune” calling for a school teacher and a music teacher. He had me help him make a choice. From among the thirty or forty letters, I selected a mother and daughter and this letter also suited father. This he answered and a few weeks later Mrs. Harrison and Anna Porter were added to our family. They were all that could be desired both as teachers and as companions. Both were well-read and quite intellectual. Porter sang and played beautifully. She was a fine entertainer, —so full of life and vivacity and with never a loss for a word. The first time I ever heard “Kathleen Mavourneen” was when it was sung by her. She and I became constant companions even though she was two years older than I. And what she was in companionship to me, her mother was to Sissy (Sister Elizabeth). They were both fond of reading and search for knowledge. Sissy often wrote continued stories for the “Boston Olive Branch” and her nom de plume was “Isabelle Gayle”. She also wrote for “Godery’s Ladies’ Magazine”.
Porter and I learned many vocal and instrumental duets which kept us in practice and added pleasure and entertainment. My life-long bosom friend, Georgie Goldsby, was still at school in Memphis, Tennessee. Her parents were neighbors and dear friends of the family. They had several children and the oldest was a son named Miles; a very bright, intelligent, and handsome young man, with no bad habits, such as tobacco, intoxicants, and swearing. Although he was generally admired, I cared very little for him. He and Porter became mutual admirers, which developed into stronger ties; but her mother, ever watchful of her daughter’s welfare, and being a wise and practical woman, objected to anything further than mutual friendship. The Harrisons suddenly left Marion that fall, but Porter left her heart behind. This episode resulted in the popular ballad, “In The Gloaming”.
After Porter and Mrs. Harrison left us, Sissy and I decided to move back to her own farm called “OakLawn” , a beautiful place which I shall describe at another time. There were many pleasant episodes at this delightful home and my dear sister did everything possible for my happiness and welfare. Georgie Goldsby returned from Tennessee and we spent many pleasant months together. But the time came when Georgie and I realized that we were wasting golden days in taking ease, comfort, and pleasure which could never return. Our better judgement decided us to return to school that Fall (1859) which was near at hand. Little did we think that the halcyon days of our close companionship were drawing to an end. She returned to her aunt in Memphis where she attended college. After graduating, she married a gentleman named Smith whom I met. He lived only a few years, dying in Memphis, and leaving her with two little boys.
At this time, I also, left for Mount Lebanon College in Farmerville, Louisiana—a Baptist college of much notoriety at that time. There was also a large Baptist Male college in the same town, which my youngest brother, Elias, 15, attended. My youngest sister, Linn was with me at college. The Fall term opened September 1st of .(bottom of original page cut off). Our president was named Prescott, a fine man of reputation as an instructor of book lore. Before taking charge of the female college, he was for several years president of the male college. the trustees elected him to the change, hoping to have it established and managed on the same basis, rules, and regulations as the Judson in Marion, Alabama.
When Professor Prescott learned of my having attended the Judson School, he requested me to assist him in formulating rules for governing each department, just as they were at Marion. All these he followed, except the uniforms, which could not be adopted at that time. In a few days, the school was in order and all seemed to understand that it was a place for study and the obedience to its laws, — and all were strictly enforced.
On the first of October, the County Fair was opened in town for one week. Our school laws were suspended for the time and students were free to attend it with suitable chaperons or escorts. During that week, I made many pleasant acquaintances, among them several very nice gentlemen,—one of whom I shall specifically mention. This was Doctor Key, son of Martin Key, a very fine man who never forgot me after our meeting on this occasion.
Note: At this point, the school days were brought to a close. Dr. Key was indirectly responsible for the romance between Louisa George and Thomas Brooks Tompkins and the story will be told in another chapter.
PART 5: PLANTATION LIFE
After the death of my mother, father seemed so disconsolate and broken I spirit, that his friends and older children encouraged him to find a companion for himself and a mother for his children. He finally wrote to Mrs. Ross,—a very excellent lady of character, culture, and refinement, reared and educated in Richmond, Virginia and who was then living on a plantation that adjoined our former home in Alabama. This lady and her sister, Sarah and Mary, were both widows; Mr. Bryant, husband of Mary, had died soon after moving to Alabama, and Mr. Ross, Sarah’s husband, died not long after we came to Louisiana.
It was satisfactorily arranged between my father and Mrs. Ross,—and the following spring (1852), father went back to Alabama and they were married. It took two or three months to arrange her affairs and get all things in order for the moving to Louisiana. As the sisters would not be separated, transportation for the two families had to be made and each had many slaves and several children. It was a big responsibility but it effectuality diverted father’s mind from his own personal grief.
Finally, the second caravan left the same neighborhood for Louisiana, similar to the first which had gone four years before,—with many vehicles and covered wagons. All arrangements for homes and land had been made previously and were awaiting their arrival.
One afternoon, when Sue, Jane, and I were attending school, a handsome youth, about 18 years old, came into the classroom and asked for the George sisters,—introducing himself as Jim Ross, our stepbrother. On looking out of the window, we were surprised to find the street lined with carriages, buggies, wagons, and horses. The young people had come in advance of the wagons, while my father’s wife and her sister were in a carriage to the rear. My father was on horseback and there were several others (bottom of original page cut off).
Our teacher excused us and we went out to meet our new relatives who insisted that we go home with them, which we were only too delighted to do. We didn’t even ask permission of our aunt, with whom we were boarding, but sent word where we were.
Father was so busy seeing that the negroes were settled, that he did not know until that night that we had come home with the crowd. When he finally came into the house, three eager girls unexpectedly threw their arms around him. Imagine our amazement when he did not respond, but seemed dismayed at our presence. He said that we must return to school early in the morning, because there was cholera among the negroes,—contracted while passing through the Mississippi swamps. A negro woman had died of it that night just as the wagon in which she rode, stopped at the gate. The next morning before breakfast, a girl 12 years old, came in and said she was sick. Father examined her and gave her the cholera remedy, but at noon she was dead. The place was immediately quarantined. In two weeks 16 negroes had succumbed. After that, there were no new cases, but it was many weeks before we were permitted to go home again.
When, once more, things were running smoothly on the plantation, work began with speed on the new house in Marion which father had stopped building after mother’s death. During that period, we resumed our former custom of weekend visits to our country home and this gave us much pleasure. We were always taken back on Monday mornings, for school began at 8 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m., with two hours for recreation. We liked horseback riding, and by request, they would bring horses with side-saddles for us to ride home. Ladies were never seen to ride astride then, but many became fine equestrians, even running through the forest in a deer or fox chase,—the horse leaping
over logs or anything that happened to be in his way.
We sometimes brought home two or tree school mates and what jolly good times we had romping all over the place. The younger children played ” Ring-around a rosy” , “Blind fold” , ” Puss-in-the-corner” , and” You can’t get out of here” ,—and there were other games that I don’t recall. The last mentioned game was played by six or seven forming a circle by holding hands; one was the prisoner within the circle jail, out of which he was to break if he could. While trying to escape he would sing, ” I’ll bet you a dollar, I’ll get outer here!” When he did, the one from whom he broke had to be the prisoner.
During dear mother’s life, we were allowed to romp and play with the children of the house servants. Although we worked and played together, the colored children were obedient and kind, and we were taught to be just and kind to them. My mother, (Miss Ann, as they called her) settled any differences which arose between us. As I see it now, she was impartial in her judgement, but then, I thought she was partial to the colored children. Each child over six had his little chores and appointed tasks, according to his age, which had to be done before he was allowed to play. Our little hands kept the knives,
forks, and other silverware shining and bright; scoured the milk-pans, buckets, and dippers, and all the tin and copper vessels. Also, the children kept the yards clean.
May 1st was always looked forward to with great pleasure, for on that day we all, white and colored children alike, were permitted to leave off our shoes and stockings for the first time since the last early autumn, and what joy was ours for this privilege.
As we grew older and started school, the pathway between servant and mistress became more marked,–the servants took their places in deference and respect. At the same time, our love and childhood associations bound us together in life-long affection and friendship.
The new home in Marion, with all the outhouses for the servants, was at last ready for occupancy. The house was commodious with parlor, dining room, six bedrooms, each with a fireplace, and every convenience known at that time. Father had a large hall built over the kitchen and a spacious storeroom. Steps to this hall were built from the outside to a porch above and the hall was furnished with chairs, tables, and beds, and many extra mattresses which were stored away for use during the occasions of summer church revivals, school concerts and exhibitions, and examinations, when people came from far and near. At this time, there was not only a large family of our own, but father, having a cordial, hospitable nature would never turn anyone away even if he’d been consulted, and the public seemed to think “Parson George” has established a wayside inn with a “Welcome to All! without money and without price”, because he had a big house and plenty of servants. When we moved in, the furniture which had been purchased in New Orleans was delayed in its delivery, and the family had to make use of whatever furniture that was at hand. The floors were bare and rooms comparatively empty and the echoes that resounded from the the plastered walls and the uncarpeted stairways, were fearful to little children, for the negroes, who were very superstitious had taught us to believe in ghosts, –and when going up to our bedrooms at night we could easily imagine that “spooks” inhabited every corner. It was a long time before I overcome this fear.
Our home was located in a beautiful, level grove of oaks and pines. There were 25 acres. Five-hundred yards in front of us, with no buildings to obstruct, was the school. To the rear of our dwelling, the land sloped down to a bold spring and a running brook which was about four-hundred yards away. Outward surroundings rapidly improved; the grounds were laid out in oval, diamond, and star-shaped beds and there were various kinds of mounds and frames for vines. Cape jasmine hedges sent their fragrance all over the village which was steadily assuming the proportions of a town with two churches, and several stores. One church, the Baptist, of which father was the pastor, was built on his land at the end of the garden. A gate near the side entrance of the house opened into a beautiful grove of oak trees in the midst of which was the church with its white copula and bell extending a welcome to all. A large orchard of peaches, apples, plums, figs, and pears had been planted in the back of the servants’ houses; and to the right of the orchard was the horse-lot, corn-crib, and stalls. In front of these were the carriage and buggy houses, in which were kept the saddles for men and women.
Our home was full of merriment and joy with young people often meeting for a social evening. My sisters and step-brothers, with piano, violin, and flute, added by other members of the family, never lacked for entertainment.
It was necessary to keep quite a coterie of servants. Their individual duties were as follows: two cooks, Ann and Emoline; dining room maid and helper, Easter and Rose; seamstress, Harriet; Laundress, Louisa. Mother’s maid, Leta, a girl of 15; Linn, Bud’ s (Elias, Jr.), and my maid, Rose; gardener, Carter; and two 15 year old boys, Sam and Lex to keep fires, attend horses, and do other chores.
In the summer of this year, there was a big Baptist meeting held at Concord Church which was two miles from town, the oldest meeting house (so-called church) in that part of the country. Father and other Baptist ministers were in charge. The greater part of Marion and the surrounding country attended all-day services, with dinner on the grounds. I became very much interested in my soul’ s salvation at this time. I learned from God’s Word that I must repent my sins and ” be baptized for the remission of sins”. I made up my mind to obey God and was baptized according to Matthew 3:11-13.