E. S. P. TO W. C. G. [IN EUROPE]
Boston, Ja, 1866. The
Freedmen’s Aid Societies have all consolidated,
and lately have united with the big Orthodox society
for helping refugees, the latter class being no longer
so needy except that the poor whites need education
as much as the blacks, and I have made up my mind
that we can’t help the blacks much except by
helping poor whites at the same time. The combination
enlarges the begging field immensely, and by putting
white and black schools under the same control will
give negro schools a sort of footing which they wouldn’t
otherwise have, after our troops get scarce. The
old feeling has already blossomed out and borne fruit
in Louisiana, where all the freedmen’s schools
have just been extinguished or snuffed out at a single
pinch, except in New Orleans city, one lady teacher
being shot through the head.
A sweeping order has mustered out
over a hundred generals of the Volunteer Army, General
Saxton among the rest. I don’t know who
takes his place in the Freedmen’s Bureau.
This institution will probably be continued by Congress
with enlarged powers, but it is but a drop in the
bucket, after all.
C. F. Williams is busy sharing out
land. He sells the whole of Fripp Point in small
lots to the negroes of both places, and some others
from outside. The whole place measures only four
hundred and sixty acres, bought for seven hundred
and fifty, and the Captain John Fripp place is only
four hundred and sixty instead of one thousand for
which I bought it! By the way, the old man is
dead, leaving his three daughters in poverty, to earn
their living as they best may. Julian Coffin
has visited Mr. Soule, etc., asking leave to go
into his old room, to take some of his father’s
old books, and left after a few hours, since which
none of us have heard anything further of them.
There seems to be less law than ever
there. I am about making representations at Washington
to see if I can’t get some improvement.
I lost about $2800 on the negro cotton
ginned in New York, and paid over about $2500 on account
of the cotton which they ginned there! I also
lost some $2000 on cotton taken from Mr.
in Beaufort, he turning out a knave. Our crop
of 1864 paid our Company a profit of about $19,000.
I shall just about pay expenses on the crop of 1865,
not much more, I think. The caterpillar and the
drought didn’t leave much cotton.
T. E. R. TO C. P. W.
Fe, 1866. I am a gentleman
of leisure and, like most every one else here,
am living on the interest of what I have lost.
I am no longer a member of the noted firm of N., R.,
and W. We dissolved January 1, and N. and W. continue
the business at the old stand. I decided that
there was not salt enough for three certainly.
There is no money here to speak of, and what there
is will go to Beaufort where there is liquor sold
or given away. I have also given up cotton-planting;
it is not a very lucrative business when it brings
only sixty-six cents.
I made arrangements with Mr. Pope
to still occupy this half of the house free of rent
until August, if I wished, and was calculating on
having a rich time seeing a native plant cotton with
these island negroes, but alas, my hopes are all blighted,
for every blessed soul but one man and his wife has
moved away and will not work for him; so he has decided
not to move here until after we are gone. He has
sent one man here who was an old servant and has been
with him all the time, and he is very industrious,
works from morn until night; it is quite refreshing
to see him. Pope was the only one of the natives
who bid off places at auction that came to time
in paying up; so the places were put up again and
bought by Northern men.
The present planters are in a dubious
frame of mind these days over the prospect for another
year, for it is very hard to bring wages down, and
one cannot get his money back at the present price
of cotton, so most of them will work on shares;
but that is a sure way of running a place all out,
for the people will not manure it sufficiently to
keep it up. Mr. Eustis is always good-natured,
and is about the only man here who is not utterly
demoralized on the negro question.
F. H. TO C. P. W.
Coffin’s Point, Fe,
1866. Really the people have met with a great
change of late, since I have sent away Anthony Bail.
They love and respect me hugely, which I hope
will last another whole week.
Dr. Oliver and Captain Ward, who have
bought “Pine Grove,” have taken the usual
disgust for the people. They have got it bad;
say they would not have bought here had they imagined
half of the reality. They have some friends who
would have bought Coffin’s Point if they could
have made a favorable report of the people. But
they tell them not to think of buying to use the labor
that is now here. I say the same when I say anything
about it, though I have no friends who think of buying
T. E. R. TO C. P. W.
May 21, 1867. I don’t
suppose we shall be able to make any new additions
to your collection of negro songs. They sing but
very little nowadays to what they used to. Do
you remember those good old days when the Methodists
used to sing up in that cotton-house at Fuller’s?
Wasn’t it good? They never sing any of them
at the church, and very few in their praise-meeting.
Crops on the island are looking worse
than I ever saw them at this season before.
We are all American citizens
now, and there has been an effort to form a Republican
party, but it has not succeeded very well yet.
They are too suspicious to be led by the whites, and
there is not sense enough in themselves to go ahead.
The last extract in the series is from
a letter written by H. W. exactly one year later,
when she made a trip to Port Royal, staying with
Miss Towne and Miss Murray at St. Helena Village.
The tardy tribute of the negroes to Mr. Philbrick
makes the story complete.
FROM H. W.
Thursday, May 21, 1868. When
I inquired at breakfast if I could have Jacob’s
horse for the day, I found that, as he was in use for
the crop, Miss Towne had already had her horse put
singly into their rockaway for school, and Miss Murray’s
into the chaise for my use. So when they started
for school, I followed along in company as far as
the end of the Village road, where Mr. N. now has a
store, and, turning on to the more familiar road,
soon found myself crossing the creek over Mr. Philbrick’s
bridge, one of the very few in decent repair, and
on my way to Captain John Fripp Homestead. The
entire absence of gates, and as a consequence of pigs,
or vice versa, made my drive an easy one, and
I did not have to get out once. It had seemed
hot early, but light clouds and a fresh breeze kept
it cool all day. I turned up the familiar avenue
to Folsom’s, after passing through one field
in which the houses are still, though more scattered.
The avenue was clean and trim, and the house corresponded, a
new piazza and steps all freshly painted, fresh paint
inside, and paper on the walls made everything look
uncommonly spruce. The schoolroom is now the
parlor, and my sofa and cushion grace it still!
Mr. Alden met me very cordially at
the foot of the steps, and I went in to see the other
occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Waters and their son.
I had a pleasant call and talk, and then, refusing
their earnest invitation to spend the day, as Coffin’s
Point was my one object, I pursued my lonely way.
Trees cut down, and houses moved and built in the
middle of the field, with the absence of fences, gates,
and pigs, were the most noticeable changes, and I
drove along, meeting no one, until I came to the pine
woods on the right opposite old Frank’s ground,
just before you turn into the Pine Grove field.
The woods were all thinned out, logs lying in every
direction. Hoeing the corn planted there were
two women I thought I recognized, and, walking the
horse, I leaned forward to see who was the man further
on. Then I stopped and asked him whose the land
was he was working, when he began an account of how
“it used to be McTureous and Mr. Thomas Coffin
buy ’em," which I cut short with “Yes,
I know that, but is it your own now? What is
your name?” “My name Able, ma’am;
dis lan’ mine, yes, ma’am” and
then “Oh! my Lord! Der Miss Hayiut,
an’ me no know um!” and he dropped
his hoe and came scrambling and running to the road.
Sarah and Elsie, whom I had just passed, and Martha
further on, came out at his call, grinning and pleased,
and then he and Martha began directly upon what I
had done for Rose, their gratitude, and willingness
that I should keep her forever. Then they talked
of how hard the last year or two had been, and there
were many reiterations of “Ebery word Mass’
Charlie and Mr. Philbrick tell we come true.”
“Tell ’em tousan howdy over for we long
too much for shum. We fin’ ’em out
A few steps more brought me into the
Pine Grove field, and I turned towards the house,
followed by half a dozen small children, only one
of whom I knew or knew me, little Abigail.
Towards the house whom should I come upon but Flora
and her Sarah, a great girl. She was pleased
as could be, but told me I should find no one at the
Grove. Old Monah was dead, and all the old people
had bought land and lived at the Point. They
were working for Mr. Ward, glad enough to earn a little
ready money for food. I went on to see Mrs. Vaughn,
and as she had not come up from school, walked down
to the praise-house, seeing no one I knew but old
School had dispersed, so I walked
back to the house, and dined there, and then for Coffin’s
Point. Once inside the line for the
gate is not I met the familiar breeze of
the Big Pasture, but its altered face. The houses
are back as far as the creek on one side and the woods
on the other, two or three quite large and
with piazzas, the praise-house near the
corner of the wood. I was a long time passing
through it, for they all dropped their hoes and came
down to shake hands. I got Uncle George to follow
along with hammer and nails to mend the chaise, as
the floor was so broken I could not put my feet on
it, and the bag of oats had dropped through on the
way. I had tied the halter to the dasher and
wound it round the bag, so there was no loss.
The dilapidation was a pleasing reminiscence of old
times, and George was pleased enough to earn a quarter
by patching it up. Then I drove on to the house,
where are only a Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair left in charge.
Mrs. S. was very polite, and asked me up into our old
parlor, which did not look as pleasant as in the old
time. Garibaldi was out at pasture, so I could
not have the ride I coveted while my horse was eating
his dinner. As I had never been into the schoolhouse
since it was finished, I borrowed the key and walked
down to it. As I pulled the rope to hear the
sound of the unused bell, Robert came in, quiet as
ever, but greatly pleased, and asking many questions
about Mass’ Charlie and Mr. and Mrs. Soule.
I found the people were coming up to be paid, so I
went back to the yard and stood there as they came
up to the schoolroom door, across which was the old
school table, with Primus behind it, and Mr. Sinclair,
looking over his list. Then I walked on the beach,
and Robert put my horse in and I drove off.
Mike had followed me up the road,
loud in his regrets for the “good olé times
when Mass’ Charlie and de fust gang white people
been here.” “Mr. Philbrick de fustest
man in de worl’. General Bennett couldn’t couldn’t fetch
de fust feathers round his heart!” whatever
that may be.