Memoir of Amanda Dalton Massey of life in old Banks County, Georgia, including the War Between the States.
Note-The following memoir was abstracted from a privately printed booklet typed and edited in 2004 by Deborah Fleming Sorenson, the last of Wilma Nichols Fleming’s children and Amanda Dalton Massey’s great-great Granddaughter. Contributed by Ron Nichols [NicholsRon18@aol.com] and transcribed with the permission of Deborah Fleming Sorenson this narrative gives us a glimpse into the lives of everyday citizens in old Banks County.
Preface by Agnes Nichols Walls [Aug. 20, 1922-Feb. 22, 2006] This is the story about a lady who lived during the Civil War. Her name was Amanda Dalton Massey. I am Agnes Nichols Walls, and I am re-writing this in the month of July, 1998. I originally wrote this when I was about 12 years old as she told me about her life. She was my mother’s grandmother. My mother was the little girl she told about. When her daughter Rose died, Amanda Dalton Massey took the baby, Amanda Rosetta Slaton, and raised her. I am now about 75 years old. I have lost the first page as she told me, so I will try to recall what she said in the first page. Amanda died in 1939 when she was 97 years old. I don’t know for sure how old she was but she told me she was 16 years old when the Civil War started. She lived in the part of Georgia where Sherman marched from Atlanta to the Sea. She told me many times about the Union soldiers coming and taking everything they had to eat and their horses and mules. She said one time her husband Frank had a big white horse he had received as payment for work performed. One day he was plowing the field with the horse and a Union soldier came and took the horse and left him the horse he had been riding. The horse he left could barely stand up. There was nothing Frank could do to stop him. As I was growing up, she lived with my mother and father and me and my sister until she died. She was very sick in her last years, so my sister and I took turns staying with her. My father was a sharecropper, and Mother had to work the fields with him most of the time. Grandma Massey loved me, but because Wilma, my sister, was four years younger, she didn’t expect so much work from her. Wilma would get in bed with her, and she would tell Wilma stories. Wilma told Grandma that someday she would name her little girl after her, and she did!
The story as told by Amanda Dalton Massey in 1935
. She said they had to study by the light of the fireplace. Then there was the old blue back speller and we used slates instead of paper. Our old school building was an old log house with three large fireplaces in it. We sat on slab benches, didn’t have any dishes. There wasn’t but very few school teachers then. There were only a few who had education enough to teach. My first school teacher was McKenly Balding [McKinney Boling]. He had to walk two miles to teach. The teacher as well as us children carried corn bread for lunch. In those days people thought they was doing well to have flour once a week on Sunday morning. People had to raise the wheat to make their flour. I was a grown girl before I ever saw a bought sack of flour.
When I came home from school every evening, I had to bring up the night water from the spring about a fourth of a mile away. I had to prepare pine nots [sic] for the night. We didn’t have lamps. We molded candles and used them and the pine nots for light. I was tasked to do so much work before I could go to bed at night. People raised but very little cotton. Most people just raised enough to make their own clothing, for they pick the seed out with their finger. It was carded and spun into thread and then worked into cloth. It sure took a time to make a dress. When I got one I knew how I got it.
We raised [a] lot of farm products such as cabbage, tobacco, beans and potatoes. We also raised cattle, hogs, and turkeys and the market was about forty miles. I remember my father, George Dalton, and William Murray driving a drove of turkeys and carrying a barrel of tobacco to Athens. It took them about three days to make the trip. They bunched the turkeys up and put them in the road in front of them, then put an axel [sic] through the barrel and hitched an ox to the barrel and let it roll on the ground. They had to camp out at night. When it became dark the turkeys would stop and fly up into a tree. They would have to stop and camp there all night. When they got to the market they sold the turkeys, tobacco, and ox all, and start on their journey back home. I went with my father to market once. He bought me a hat. It was the first bought hat I had ever owned. About that time hoop skirts come in style. I got one of those and when I put it on and my hat, I thought I was dressed fine. For I always wore a bonnet everywhere I went, even church.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out. I had seven brothers in the War; five of them went off in the first call. Leonard, Radford, Chap, Ben and Wilburn, and three of them were married leaving wives and children. A few months later there was another call that took the oldest one and one younger, Crow and John. It was a sad time that I will never forget. The morning my five brothers started I can remember my mother standing on the porch with her arm around a post screaming and crying. It wasn’t long after they left ‘til one of my brothers, John, took brain fever and died. Brother Ben came with his body on the train to Athens. That was the nearest railroad station. He was carried into the depot. Ben lay on his casket til morning. Ben and Dick Saulman brought him home forty miles in a wagon. We didn’t know he was dead ‘til they got home with his body. They got home about sunset. We buried him at the Line church. Ben stayed about eight days after John was buried. Wilburn was wounded in the Marylon [Maryland] battle. Bill Payton told us when he come home. He said he was standing by his side when he was shot down. The Yankees were charging on them so they had to run. Bill said he picked him [Wilburn} up, carried and laid him in the shade of a tree and had to run. That was the last we heard of him, he never did return home. The Marylon battle was the hardest battle they had. That was when Leonard was wounded in the knee. The Yankees came and got him and Chap too. They never come home for several months after peace was made. They put Chap on a ship and kept him on the water for sixty days. He was so tan when he come home, didn’t any of us know him. He had chills and fever and died a short while after he come home. I remember the morning he come. Father was sitting on the porch. He come up to the gate. It was a big reunion when we recognized him, for we all thought he was dead. My sister lived about a mile and half away. The news was carried to her. She was washing at the branch. She left her washing, some in the tubs, just as it was when the news came to her. It came an awful cloud. Rained and washed her tubs and clothes most all away
. Leonard came home several weeks before Chap. Crow, Radford and Ben come home when peace was made. We sure had a hard time during the war. Food was scarce and high priced. Some men made the women pay thirty dollars a bushel for corn. Coffee, sugar and salt was so scarce we just couldn’t get it. I can remember Father digging up the dirt in the smoke house, putting it into a hopper and dripping it to get the salt out. There was no credit and you couldn’t borrow money as we can today. The soldiers had to furnish all their clothing except their uniforms. When some of the boys out of the company my brothers was in would come home on furlough, we would always send them clothes such as socks and shirts. If we didn’t have each one garment apiece, we would work night and day. I have sewed and knit on Sunday to have clothes ready to send back to the boys.
The war closed in 1865. I was a grown girl when the war broke out. My father was always cruel. He wouldn’t let me dress like the other girls did. I always wanted some ear rings. They were the style. But Father wouldn’t buy them for me. I washed for one of my sister-in-laws when she was sick and she bought me a pair. They wasn’t the ear rings girls ware [sic] now. You had to have holes made in your ears. I know Father wouldn’t let me ware them if he had known it. So one night, after Father went to bed, I put holes through my ears with a needle and silk thread. I got them too high. I had to put them in again. You had to let the thread stay in ‘til they headed up and had to move the thread each day. My ears got awful sore almost so’s I had to wear a bonnet all the time to keep Father from seeing them.
He never let me have Boyfriend Company. The first boy I ever courted was John Dodd. When I would go with a boy I would never let them come to the house. If I did, Father would run them off. My baby brother, Thoms [Thomas] was always good to go with me and help me out in every way he could. I courted John Dodd four years. Sometimes when he would come to see me Father would speak to him and sometimes he wouldn’t. He seldom ever come, for he was afraid of Father. I never did go with many boys except John ‘til I met Frank Massey [Franklin G. Massey]. Thoms and I pretended we was going to spend the night with some friends of ours. But instead we went to a Valentine Party at Nancy Gillespie’s. It was there I met Frank, the man I married. The party turned out to be a dance. OH! I was troubled to death Father and Mother would find out where I had been. Some of the girls that was there danced and they brought up charges against them in church and turned them out the next conference for dancing. I just looked for someone to bring me up, for I danced too! But nobody never said nothing about us being there. I worried about that so ‘ til I thought, if I ever got out of that I wouldn’t do that anymore. I knew if Father ever heard about that he would make it harder for me. Father never did seem to be so hard about Frank coming, but he wouldn’t invite him in for dinner or invite him to come. He never came often for he lived about twenty miles away. He didn’t have any way to come except walking. He had some friends who lived in our settlement and when he come, he would come on Saturday and stay ‘til Sunday afternoon with his friend and come to see me on Sunday. He was the nicest boy I was ever with. He was not an educated boy, but he had nice loving ways that made everyone like him.
We were married on Nov. 14 after I met him February. That was the year 1869. He had been working for wages on the farm. His income was small. He didn’t have much saved for us to start with. I only had a few house things. He rented us a crop and we both started working, managing and shifting in every way we could. I would weave cloth and the fringe for other people to make money. He would ditch and do any kind of farm work. Frank bought us a cow from Mr. Faunt Moss [Fountain G. Moss] and paid for it in ditching in his bottom land. We bought us a hog. I will never forget that hog breaking all my dishes. We lived in a little one room house, what people would call today a hut. It had a chimney at one end and just a door in the side. In this I had two beds and some other furniture. I had to cook on the fireplace for there was no stoves then. My dining table was setting near the door. Our hog was out. The door was open. The hog came up in the door, caught the table cloth, pulled it off the table. My dishes went to pieces on the floor. There I was, no money to buy to buy dishes with and all I had broke. I did not know what to do. I knew I had to have dishes. I had a heavy feather bed that I had raised geese before I was married and made. I knew that feathers were a good price so I went to my bed and took feathers enough to buy me back some dishes
On December 28, 1870 my first baby, a daughter, was borned, Leavy. I wasn’t like the mothers nowadays [who] go to town and buy all the needs for baby. I had wove and made most of Leavy’s clothes before she was borned. I worked side by side with Frank. We was up soon every morning. He helped me do the work, make the beds, get breakfast, and milk the cow. I was ready to go with him to the field by sunrise. I hired brother Leonard’s little girl to stay with the baby while I worked in the field. When Leavy was three months old, my mother (Frances Smith Dalton) died. When she was taken sick during her sickness I had to go back and forth and help nurse her. She lay sick for some time. I didn’t have much health myself. Mother’s death put more on me to do to help take care of Father. I did all his work after Mother died and had to go back and forth to do it
. In about six months he married again (3rd) and brought a stepmother in. Some of the children didn’t like it. But I didn’t care myself for it made my work lighter. We both worked hard and tried to save to get a start, but the family grew large. There was a baby borned about every two years ‘til there was eight added to our family. We had eight children, there was four boys and four girls, Leavy, Noah, Nettie, Dock, Rose, Hubbard, Maud and Lon.
People plowed cattle then. We owned a yoke of cattle, but Frank had always wanted to own a good pair of mules. The family was so large and times was hard ‘til we couldn’t save back enough to buy the mules. It wasn’t until about the year 1880 that we was able to buy stock. About that time was the time I bought my cook stove, the first one I had ever owned. Part of the children was getting large enough to help us work. But for all the hardships and troubles, there were pleasures and enjoyment for all had very good health and we enjoyed being together. Each year grew harder with us for the children was getting larger and it was taken [sic] more to clothe them. By this time, they was almost grown and was wanting clothes like other girls and boys. Times was so hard. I didn’t have any money to buy them nice clothes. So I would take the children and hire (out) to people and work to get them clothes. Rose and Noah didn’t never have good health like the other children. I would leave them at home to do the work there and the rest of us would go to work.
In the year 1902 Rose died leaving a little daughter sixteen months old. Rose had been married about two years and a half before her death. By this time all my children was married but the three youngest. When Rose died, her request was for me to take the child. Mat [William Mathew Slaton], Rose’s husband, hated to give the child up after he had lost his wife, but he said he didn’t have anyone to help take care of her so I could have her for my lifetime. I raised her and she is married, has a family of her own, and is caring for me in my old days.
In 1909 [Sept. 9 1906] one of my sons died, Noah, leaving five children. Frank and myself tried to help Noah’s wife to raise the children al we could, but by this time Frank was breaking with age. It was harder for us to earn a living. When Rosetta (Rose’s girl) was nine years old she had typhoid fever and lay sick about two months. The doctor had to come, and her being sick made it harder for me. We had a big doctor bill to pay. By this time all the children had married and moved out to themselves.
In January of the year 1912, Frank began to have epileptic fits and of all the troubles I have seen, this was the worst. He died [May 20, 1912] and left me and ‘Etta alone.
Note-Amanda Dalton Massey died on October 10, 1939, and was laid to rest beside her husband at Silver Shoals Baptist Church cemetery in Banks County, Georgia. The birthdate of her stone is Nov. 15, 1851, however census records indicate she was probably born 1848-1849.
Transcribed 2006 by Jacqueline King