Slave Narrative of Alexander Scaife

Interviewer: Caldwell Sims
Person Interviewed: Alexander Scaife
Location: Pacolet, South Carolina

“Marster Charner Scaife a-laying on his bed of death is ’bout de first thing dat stuck in my mind. I felt sorry fer everybody den. Miss Mary Rice Scaife, his wife, was mean. She died a year atter. Never felt sad nor glad den; never felt no ways out of de regular way, den.

“Overseers I recollects was, Mr. Sam Hughes, Mr. Tom Baldwin, and Mr. Whitfield Davis. Mr. Baldwin was de best to me. He had a still-house out in a field whar liquor was made. I tote it fer him. We made good corn liquor. Once a week I brung a gallon to de big house to Marster. Once I got happy off’n it, and when I got dar lots of it was gone. He had me whipped. Dat de last time I ever got happy off’n Marster’s jug.

“When I was a shaver I carried water to de rooms and polished shoes fer all de white folks in de house. Sot de freshly polished shoes at de door of de bed-room. Get a nickle fer dat and dance fer joy over it. Two big gals cleaned de rooms up and I helped carry out things and take up ashes and fetch wood and build fires early every day. Marster’s house had five bedrooms and a setting room. De kitchen and dining-room was in de back yard. A covered passage kept dem from getting wet when dey went to de dining-room. Marster said he had rather get cold going to eat dan to have de food get cold while it was being fetched to him. So he had de kitchen and dining-room jined, but most folks had de dining-room in de big house.

“It took a week to take de cotton boat from Chester to Columbia. Six slaves handled de flat-boat. Dere was six, as I said, de boatman, two oarsmen, two steermen and an extra man. De steermen was just behind de boatman. Dey steered wid long poles on de way up de river and paddled down de river. De two oarsmen was behind dem. Dey used to pole, too, going up, and paddling going down. Seventy-five or eighty bales was carried at a time. Dey weighed around three hundred pounds apiece. In Columbia, de wharfs was on de Congree banks. Fer de cotton, we got all kinds of supplies to carry home. De boat was loaded wid sugar and coffee coming back. On Broad River we passed by Woods Ferry, Fish Dam Ferry, Hendersons Ferry and Hendersons Island and some others, but dat is all I recollect. We unloaded at our own ferry, called Scaife Ferry.

“I split rails fer fences. On Christmas we had coffee, sugar and biscuit fer breakfast.”


Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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