Friday, August 28, 2009

Greene County, GA 1850 - 1885

This past Monday, while waiting in the emergency room with my dad, I was able to finish reading How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, GA 1850 - 1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant. I purchased this book hoping there would be a mention of my ancestors, my 2ggrandparents Jasper and Jane Pierce, or at least a mention of their last slave owner. Sadly, there was no mention of either my ancestors or their owner.

Even though there was no mention of my ancestors, I am glad that I read the book as it gave me a snapshot of what was going on in the county in which they lived prior to and immediately following the civil war. This is not a full blown review of the book but just some of things I noted or that came to mind as I read the book.

One of the interesting things, based on this book, is that a great many of the slaves were able to "freely" move about and visit other farms as the patrol laws were never really enforced in Greene County. And although not legally recognized, they were allowed to marry and they were allowed to build their own church because it was thought they would do better spiritually if they had their own place of worship.

Maybe it was this limited Freedom during slavery that gave the former slaves of Greene County the strength and solidarity against great odds to continue to fight for their rights long after the other former slaves of GA had been put back in their place. They build their own community, Canaan, and they greatly impacted the politics of Greene County for many years. It was a several years before Democrats came back in power in Greene County. (For those that may not know, Lincoln's party was not the Democratic party. The former slaves and their descendants were overwhelmingly Republican and it stayed this way until the 1930s.)

Unfortunately for many of the former slaves of Greene County and yes even for some of the former slave owners, Greene County put all it's eggs into one basket, Cotton, and a market economy over which they had no control. Even though I've yet to visit Greene County, I understand the effects of this decision still hang over Greene County even today.

The one thing that I confirmed by reading this book but had already suspected is that even within Greene County there was further fragmentation depending on where one resided. My ancestors and their suspected but yet to be confirmed owner, Jesse Pierce, lived in White Plains, GA. The White Plains and Siloam areas were known as the Grey Lands due to the light sandy soil. Those that settled this area tended to be small time farmers, usually owning less than 200 acres, with only few slaves (15 or less) and it's reported that the owner's often worked in the fields alongside their slaves. I wonder if having to work alongside the slaves they owned affected the owner's view of slavery. This fact also make me realize that it may be just a bit more difficult than even I imagined to continue past my 2ggrandparents but I refuse to give up.

And lastly, I wonder what my ancestors went through in the years immediately following the civil war. Did they ever think about moving to Canaan? Did they ever try to vote? Or did they just simply want their own little piece of land to farm and raise their family? Eventually, my ancestors left Greene County. My ggrandfather and his brother Lon would eventually end up in Walton County and my great aunt Nuna would eventually end up in Atlanta. I suspect that one by one or together that the rest of my ggrandfather's brothers and sisters left Greene County, too as I've not been able to locate them past the 1880 census. I think my 2ggrandparents more than likely spent their entire life in White Plains. GGgranddad appears on the 1880 census, then never again. I've found what appears to be my gggrandmother on the 1900 census still in White Plains.



Til Next Time!

2 comments:

  1. Hi, I just found your musings on how curious a land. Have you checked the Southern Claims Commission to see if you could find anything about the Pierces? I did not come across them in my research. Also, don't underestimate how coercive and violent slavery could be. Allowing slaves to travel around locally and to marry in many ways worked to the advantage of the owners.
    Jon Bryant

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  2. Hi Mavis,

    I'm also looking for info about my ancestors who lived in Greene County in the time period you write about. I'm particularly interested in 2ggrandparents
    Dr. William A J Anderson and his wife, Sarah Adelaide Tuggle. Have found nothing about her and confusing info about him. I also have a copy of Curious Land I'm currently reading along with other Georgia histories. Will keep my eyes open for Pierce's. Barbara Allen

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