Rosa Starke

Ex-Slave, born 1855

of Longtown, Fairfield Co., SC

Interviewed in 1938 when 83 years old

Source: Longtown, Fairfield Co., SC, History

Rosa's grandfather was a slave of solicitor Starke. Although she has had two husbands since slavery, she has thrown their names into the discard and goes by the name of Rosa Starke. She lives in a three room frame house with her son, John Harrison, two miles south of Winnsboro, S.C. on the plantation of Mrs. Rebecca Woodward, she still does farm work, hoeing and picking cotton.

"They say I was six years old when de war commence poppin' in Charleston. Mammy and pappy say dat I was born on de Graham Place, one of de nineteen plantations of my old marster, Nick Peay, in 1854. My pappy was named Bob and my Mammy name Salina. They had b'longed to old Marse Tom Starkes befo old Marse Nick bought them. My brudders was name Bob and John. I had a sister name Carrie. They was all older then me.

"My Marster, Nick Peay, had nineteen places, wid a overseer and slave quarters on every place. Folks dat know will tell you, dis day, dat them nineteen plantations, in all, was twenty seven thousand acres. He had a thousand slaves, more or less, too many to take a census of. Befo' the numerator git 'round, some more would be born or bought, and de nominator had to be sent 'round by Marse Nick, so old Miss Martha, our mistress say. Her never could know just how many twas. Folks used to come to see her ask how many they had and her say it was one of them sums in de 'rithmetic dat a body never could take a slate and pencil and find out de correct answer to.

" Her was an Adamson befo' her marry old marster, a grand big buckra. Had a grand manner, no patience with po white folks. They could'nt come in the front yard, they knowed to pass on by to de lot, hitch up dair hoss, and come knock on de kitchen door and make deir wants and wishes knowed to de butler.

"You wants me to tell 'bout what kind of house us niggers live in then? Well, it ' pend on de nigger and what him was doin'. Dere was just two classes of de white folks, buckra slave owners and poor white folks dat did'nt own no slaves. Dere was more classes 'mongst the slaves. De first class was the house servants. Dese was de butler, de maids, de nurses, chambermaids, and de cooks. De nex' class was de carriage drivers and de gardeners, de carpenters, de barber and the stable man. Then come the nex'class, de wheelwright, wagoners, blacksmiths and slave foremen. De nex' class I members is the cow men and de niggers dat have care of de dogs. All these have good houses and never have to work hard or get a beatin'. Then come the cradlers of the wheat, de threshers, and de millers od de corn and de wheat, and de feeders of the cotton gin. De lowest was the common field niggers. A house nigger man might swoop down and mate wid a field hands good lookin'daughter, now and then, for pure love of her, but you never see a house gal lower herself by marryin' and matin' wid a common field-hand nigger. Dat offend de white folks, specially de young misses, who liked de business of match makin' and matin' of de young slaves.

"My young marsters was Marse Tom, Marse Nick and Marse Austin. My young misses was Miss Martha, Miss Mary, and Miss Anne Eliza. I knows Marse Nick, Jr. Marry and Cunningham of Liberty Hill. Marse Tom marry a Lyles and Marse Austin marry and move to Abbeville, after de war. Old Marster die de year befo' the war, I think, ' cause my mammy and pappy fell in de division to Marse Nick and us leave de Graham place to go to de home place. It was called de Melrose place. And wat a place dat was! 'Twas on a hill, overlookin' de place where de Longtown Presbyterian Church and cemetary is today. Dere was thirty rooms in it and a fish pond on top of it. A flower yard stretchin' clean down de hill to de big road, where de big gate, hangin' on big granite pillars, swung open to let de carriages, buggies and wagons in and up to de house.

"Can I tell you some of de things dat was in dat house when de Yankees come? Golly no! Dat I can't, but I 'members some things that would stonish you as it stonished them. They had Marseille carpets, linen table cloths,two silver candlesticks in every room, four wine decanters, four nut crackers, and two coffee pots all of them silver. Silver castors for pepper, salt, and vinegar bottles. All de plates were china. Ninety eight silver forks, knives, teaspoons and tablespoons. Four silver ladles, six silver sugar tongs, silver goblets, a silver mustard pot and two silver fruit stands. All de fireplaces had brass firedogs and marble mantelpieces. Dere was four oil paintings in de hall, each cost, so Marse Nick say a hundred dollars. One was his ma, one was his pa, one was his uncle Austin and de other was of Colonel Lamar.

De smokehouse had four rooms and a cellar. One room, every year, was filled wid brown sugar just shoveled in wid spades. In winter they would drive up a drove of hogs from each plantation, kill them, scald de hair off them, and pack de meat away in salt, and hang the hams and shoulders, round and bout the smokehouse. Most of de Rum and wine was kept in barrels, in de cellar, but dere was a closet in de house where whiskey and brandy was kep' for quick use. All back on de east side of the mansion was de garden and terraces, acres of sweet taters, and water millions (watermelons) and strawberries and two long rows of beehives.

"old Marster die. De praisers of de State come and figure dat his mules, niggers, cows, hogs, and things was worth $ 200,000. Land and houses idisremember'bout. They, anyhow, say de property was over a million dollars. They put a price of $1,600 on mammy and $1,800 on pappy. I member they say I was worth $ 400.00, Young Marse Nick tell us dat the personal property of the estate was praised at $288,168.79.

"De Yankees come set all the cotton and de gin house afire. Load up all de meat, take some of de sugar and shovel some over de yard, take all the rum, wine and liquor, gut the houses of all the silver and valuables, set it afire, and leave one thousand niggers cold and hungry, and our white folks in a misery they never got over to de third generation of them. Some of them is the poorest white folks in the State today. I weeps when I see them so poor, but they is spectable yet, thank God.

"After the war I stuck to the Peay white folks, 'till I got married to Will Harrison. I can't say I love him, though he was de father of all my chillun. My pappy, you know, was a half white man. Maybe dat explain it. Anyhow when he took the fever I sent for Dr. Gibson, 'tend him faithful but he die and felt more like I was free, when I came back from the funeral, then I did when old Marse Lincoln set us free. My brudder Bob, had done gone to Florida.

"I nex marry in a half hearted way, John Pearson, to help take care of me and my three chillun, John, Bob and Carrie. Him take pneumonia and die, and I never have a speck of heart to marry a colored man since. I just have a mind to wait for de proper sort, till I git to Heaven, but dese adult teachers' stroy dat hope. They read me dat dars no marryin' in Heaven. Well, well, dat'll be a great dissapointment to some I knows, both white and black, and the ginger-cake woman lak me.

" Is I got any more to tell you? Just dis: Dere was 365 windows and doors to Marse Nicks house at Melrose, one for every day in de year, my mistress, my mistress 'low. And dare was a peach tree in de orchard so grafted dat dat peach tree have ripe peachs on it in May, June, July, August, September and October."

Fairfield Co., SC


Click for a full list of surnames and individuals currently in my data on Rootsweb's WorldConnect Project, then type lastname, firstname in search window, select from list, view &/or print individual, pedigree, register, and alfentanil reports. No living individuals shown.