Photograph of Midway Church, ca. 1875
Source: Vanishing Georgia
He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride. JOB 41;34
The houses on some plantations were constructed of sawed lumber furnished by the adjacent watermills, or cut by the Negro sawyers laboriously and not very accurately, with the whip-saw, worked in pen or pit, and making a tolerably fair joint possible. On our plantation there were, for the most part, covered with a weather boarding of clapboards, split along the grain with what was called a frow, and from short cuts of cypress logs, and not admitting of a very close fitting. The houses were never lined within, so that only the thickness of a single board kept out the winter’s air and cold. Usually the house had two or more unglazed windows, and a front and back door, and was warmed by a clay chimney, with a wide hearth, abundantly supplied with oak and pine.
You entered first the common living room. Separated from it, and with its door, was the family bedroom; and if the children were half-grown, you would find frequently one or two “shed-rooms” or lean-to, in the rear, furnishings all proper privacy. The furnishing of the servants home was primitive. There were a few benches and a rude rocker, all of home manufacture; shelves in the corner, containing neatly scrubbed pails and “piggins,” made by the plantation coopers of alternate strips of redolent white cypress and fragrant red cedar, bright tins and white and colored plates, with the never absent long-necked gourd dipper, and beneath them the ovens, pots and skillets, the simple, but most efficient paraphernalia of the mother cook.
The bedroom had a few boxes,containing the simple finery and Sunday clothes of the family; the week-day garments hung upon string stretcher across the corner; the bedstead consisted of a few boards nailed across a pair of trestles and covered with the soft black moss so abundantly yielded by the adjacent swamps, and quite a number of good warm blankets, in which the sleepers, oblivious of change of seasons, would wrap themselves
up, until not a square inch of sable skin was exposed. Their food was mainly maize (corn), which, were a public mill was handy, was ground for them. On my father’s place they ground it themselves on the common hand mill; also the sweet potato, abounding in starch, the main nutrition’s ingredient in all food products; and easily and quickly cooked in the ashes or baked before a fire. The weekly allowance for a “hand” or full worker was, I believe, a peck of corn and four quarts additional for every child; and a half bushel of sweet potatoes to each adult, and to each child in the same proportion. This weekly fare the year round was with us supplemented, in the season when the work was unusually heavy, by rations of molasses, or bacon, or salt fish; and an occasional beef. To this, thrifty servants added rice, of which they were as fond as the Chinese, and which they cultivated themselves in patches allotted them, and with seed and time afforded by their masters; and chickens and bacon of their own raising and curing and fish of their own catching. So abundant were the rations of corn that at the end of a week the careful householder sent quite a bag of it to the store to be exchanged for calico or tobacco.
(The preceding article was written by Rev. R. Q. Ballard (1830-1904) telling of the treatment and living conditions of the slaves on his fathers plantation in the Dorchester (Liberty County) District. The article was first published in Richmond, VA., in 1892.)