Interviewer: Phoebe Faucette
Person Interviewed: Daphney Wright
Location: Scotia, South Carolina
106 Year Old Ex-Slave
Just around the bend from the old mill pond on the way to Davis Swimming Pool lives a very old negro woman. Her name is Daphney Wright, though that name has never been heard by those who affectionately know her as “Aunt Affie”. She says she is 106 years old. She comes to the door without a cane and greets her guests with accustomed curtsey. She is neatly dressed and still wears a fresh white cap as she did when she worked for the white folks. Save for her wearing glasses and walking slowly, there are no evidences of illness or infirmities. She has a sturdy frame, and a kindly face shows through the wrinkles.
“I been livin’ in Beaufort when de war fust (first) break out”, she begins. “Mr. Robert Cally was my marsa. Dat wuz in October. De Southern soldiers come through Bluffton on a Wednesday and tell de white folks must get out de way, de Yankees right behind ’em! De summer place been at Bluffton. De plantation wuz ten miles away. After we refugee from Bluffton, we spent de fust night at Jonesville. From dere we went to Hardeeville. We got here on Saturday evening. You know we had to ride by horses—in wagons an’ buggies. Dere weren’t no railroads or cars den. Dat why it take so long.
“Mr. Lawrence McKenzie wuz my Missus’ child. We stayed wid him awhile, ’til he find us a place. Got us a little house. We stayed four years dere, ’til de war wuz over. Dey sent de young ladies on—on farther up de country, to a safer place. Dey went to Society Hill. My old Missus stay. Sae wuz a old lady. When de Yankees come she died. I wuz right dere wid her when she died. She had been sickly. After de war dey all went back to de old place. I had married up here, so when dey went back I stay on here.
“I been right here when de Yankees come through. I been in my house asittin’ before de fire, jes’ like I is now.
“One of ’em come up an’ say, ‘You know who I is?’
“I say, ‘No.’
“He say, ‘Well, I is come to set you free. You kin stay wid your old owners if you wants to, but dey’ll pay you wages.’
“But dey sure did plenty of mischief while dey wuz here. Didn’t burn all de houses. Pick out de big handsome house to burn. Burn down Mr. Bill Lawton’ house. Mr. Asbury Lawton had a fine house. Dey burn dat. (He Marse Tom Lawton’ brother.) Burn Mr. Maner’ house. Some had put a poor white woman in de house to keep de place; but it didn’t make no difference.
“De soldiers say, ‘Dis rich house don’t belong to you. We goin’ to burn dis house!’
“Dey’d go through de house an’ take everything’. Take anythin’ they could find. Take from de white, an’ take from de colored, too. Take everything out de house! Dey take from my house. Take somethin’ to eat. But I didn’t have anythin’ much in my house. Had a little pork an’ a week’s supply of rations.
“De white folks would bury de silver. But dey couldn’t always find it again. One give her silver to de colored butler to bury but he wuz kill, an’ nobody else know where he bury it. It wuz after de war, an’ he wuz walkin’ down de road, an’ Wheeler’s Brigade kill him.
“Been years an’ years ‘fore everythin’ could come together again. You know after de war de Confederate money been confiscate. You could be walkin’ ‘long de road anytime an’ pick up a ten dollar bill or a five dollar bill, but it wuzn’t no good to you. After de greenback come money flourish again.
“De plantation wuz down on de river. I live dere ‘cept for de four years we refugee. Dat been a beautiful place—dere on de water! When de stars would come out dere over de water it wuz a beautiful sight! Sometimes some of us girls would get in a little ‘paddle’ an’ paddle out into de river. We’d be scared to go too far out, but we’d paddle around. Sometimes my father would go out in de night an’ catch de fish with a seine. He’d come back with a bushel of fish ‘most anytime. Dey were nice big mullets! He’d divide ’em ’round ‘mongst de colored folks. An’ he’d take some up to de white folks for dere breakfast. My white folks been good white people. I never know no cruel. Dey treat me jes like one of dem. Dey say dey took me when I wuz five years old. An’ I stay wid dem ’til freedom. I am 106 years old now.
“Dem people on de water don’t eat much meat. Twenty-five cent of bacon will last dem a week. Dey cut de meat into little pieces, an’ fry dem into cracklings, den put dat into de fish stew. It surely makes de stew good. When dey kill a hog dey take it to town an’ sell it, den use de money for whatever dey want. Dey don’t have to cure de pork an’ keep it to eat. Dey jes’ eat fish. Dey have de mullets, an’ de oysters, an’ de crabs, an’ dese little clams. Dey have oyster-stew. Dey have roast oysters, den de raw oysters. An’ dey have dey fried oysters! Dat sure is good. Dey fish from de boat, dey fish from de log, an’ dey fish ‘long de edge of de water wid a net. When de tide go down you kin walk along an’ jes pick up de crab. You could get a bucket full in no time. We’d like to go up an’ down an’ pick up de pretty shells. I got one here on de mantel now. It ain’t sech a big one, but it’s a pretty little shell.
“I is always glad to talk ’bout de old times an’ de old people. We is livin’ in peace now, but still it’s hard times. We ought to be thankful though our country ain’t in war.”