Interviewer: Phoebe Faucette
Person Interviewed: Eliza Scantling
Location: Scotia, South Carolina
“If you wants to know about de slavery times,” said old Aunt Eliza, “you’se sure come to de right person; ’cause I wuz right dere.” The statement was easy to believe; for old Aunt Eliza’s wrinkled face and stiff, bent form bore testimony to the fact that she had been here for many a year. As she sat one cold afternoon in December before her fire of fat lightwood knots, in her one-room cabin, she quickly went back to her childhood days. Her cabin walls and floor were filled with large cracks through which the wind came blowing in.
“I gits along pretty good. My chillun lives all around here, and my granddaughter that’s a-standin’ at the window dere, takes care of me. Den de government helps me out. It sure is a blessing, too—to have sech a good government! And ‘Miss Maggie’ good to me. She brought me dis wood. Brought it in her truck herself. Had a colored man along to handle it for her. But I so stiff I sometimes kin hardly move from me waist down. And sometimes in de morning when I wake, it is all I kin do to get up an’ wash me face. But I got to do it. My granddaughter bring me my meals.
“I is 87 years old. I know ’cause I wuz so high when de war broke out. An’ I plowed my January to July de year ‘fore peace declare. I remember dat. I wuz a good big girl; but jes’ a child—not married yet. Yes’m I plowed a mule an’ a wild un at dat. Sometimes me hands get so cold I jes’ cry. But dey all say I ‘wuz a nigger what wuz a nigger!’
“In May peace declare. De first president of de country wuz Lincoln. He took his seat in March. But I work for de white people ‘fore dat. On a Friday mornin’ our Massa, Mr. Richard Davant come an’ told us peace declare. He come an’ told us hisself. I wuz in de cornhouse a-shuckin’ corn to go to de mill on Saturday. After freedom all de niggers left ‘cept my Mamma. My father brought us back here to Col. Alex Lawton’s place at Robertville. He used to belong to Col. Lawton. Many years atter dat Col. Lawton moved to Savannah; but when he died dey brought him back here an’ buried him at Robertville.
“My young Missus was de daughter of Mr. Sam Maner, my old Massa; so when she marry Mr. Davant I went wid her. Dey had bought a place in Screven, Georgia. Seven year ‘fore peace declare we went to Georgia. On a Monday mornin’ a colored man come along an’ tell Miss Anna de Yankees had took Waynesboro. We all went to see it. De fire had left de place clean. Could pick up a pin behind it. Other than dat I see nothin’. I never see no house burn down. I never hear no gun fire. I jes’ see de uniform, an’ see ‘em kill de hog an’ sling ‘em ‘cross de saddle. Den when we come back to Robertville, we see de destruction left behind.
“After I git of size I mind de birds off de corn an’ rice an’ sech like. Den I’d take care of de turkeys. An’ we’d sweep de yards. Carry de leaves off to de stable in a wheelbarrow.
“Both my missus wuz good to me. De last missus I own treat me jes’ de same as her own child. I stayed right dere in de house wid her, an’ if I wuz sick or anything she’d take care of me same as her own chillun. I nurse one of her chillun. An’ dat child would rather be wid me than wid her own mother!”