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Plain Folk's FightThe Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia$

Mark V. Wetherington

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780807829639

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877043_wetherington

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on the cotton frontier

on the cotton frontier

(p.11) 1 on the cotton frontier
Plain Folk's Fight

Mark V. Wetherington

University of North Carolina Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the cotton frontier in the lower Ocmulgee River in southern Georgia during the 1860s and the role played by white plain folk in the growth of cotton production in the region. It examines how the boundaries between pineland and river bottoms became contested areas pitting the “piney woods against the world” and helped both define and unify plain folk. The chapter looks at the rise of plantations dedicated to the production of cotton and rice in the wiregrass country, the plain folk's increased involvement in the market economy and slavery, and how they coexisted with planters and slaves in an increasingly commercial economy. It also discusses antebellum trends other than cotton production and slaveholding that threatened to make the wiregrass country more similar to the black belts surrounding it and in the process destabilize backwoods neighborhoods, such as evangelicalism and the construction of railroads.

Keywords:   cotton production, Ocmulgee River, Georgia, plain folk, piney woods, plantations, market economy, slavery, evangelicalism, railroads

John K. Whaley was the Natty Bumppo of the lower Ocmulgee River. Like James Fenimore Cooper's fictional frontier character, he was a solitary man who lived off the land hunting, fishing, and foraging in the wild woods. A throwback to an earlier era, he hunted by “the light of a pine torch” and felt crowded by anyone who settled within five miles of his cabin. Whaley deeply resented the arrival of the acquisitive cotton planters who bought up the land, cut back the forest, tilled the soil, and fenced in their crops, making it difficult for plain folk like himself to find sustenance in the woods. By the late 1850s “Old John K.,” as he was called, had had enough of the cotton planters and slaves who transformed Pulaski County's virgin forest into a cotton frontier. Despite his advanced age of sixty or so, Whaley packed up what little he owned and fled deeper into southern Georgia's pine forest. There, on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, he fished, hunted, and trapped for much of the remainder of his life.1

At the end of the antebellum period, the Ocmulgee River world that Whaley knew was vastly different from the one William Bartram had visited in 1778, when Bartram saw a verdant landscape of “fragrant groves and sublime forests.” By the time Whaley was born in the 1790s, the postrevolutionary surge of westward migration (p.12) across Georgia's fertile cotton belt was already under way. The landscape Whaley found after a series of cessions by the Creek nation between 1804 and 1821 still carried the marks of centuries of Indian occupation that Bartram had observed a generation earlier. As Whaley entered his teens, however, the sub-lime forests were already being cleared and planted in cotton. Indeed, following its organization in 1808, Pulaski County became part of a larger border-land where the rich cotton lands of Georgia's black belt gave way to the poorer sandy soils of the wiregrass region. Whaley lived on the edge of this commercial world until the final years of his life. Only then did he leave the Ocmulgee and move deeper into one of the wildest landscapes in the eastern United States.2

Muddy and sluggish, the Ocmulgee River rises in Georgia's upcountry and flows across its black belt, picking up volume and red silt before crossing the fall line at Macon. Near the town of Hawkinsville, approximately 70 river miles below Macon, the Ocmulgee leaves the humus-rich cotton lands and enters its lower section. For 133 river miles it cuts a winding channel through the wiregrass country before joining the Oconee River at a place called the Forks to form the Altamaha River. In Whaley's day, it took two days to travel overland from Hawkinsville to the Forks. It took as much as seven days to reach the Forks by steamboat from Savannah, running against the current up the Altamaha. After the arrival of steamboats on the river in the late 1820s, one of the plain folk described the Ocmulgee as “one of the smartest rivers for navigation in the southern states.”3

Like any borderland, the ground where cotton belt met pine belt along the lower Ocmulgee formed a contested area that raised questions of regional identity and loyalty. After all, it was this transitional zone that separated, as one antebellum observer remarked, “the black labour from the white labour of the South.” The longleaf pine belt's unique ecological system, with its peculiar flora and fauna, was responsible for its reputation as both a barren piney woods land in the opinion of commercial farmers and as a best poor man's country in the eyes of plain folk. But the region was also a mental construction of people living there, and its boundaries were largely set by their past experiences and emotional responses to the world around them. Plain folk saw their society as an expression of a country republican ideology that embraced Jeffersonian ideals of an economically independent yeomanry sharing common interests. They stereotypically regarded planters as aristocrats who dressed in store-bought finery, sent their children to academies, lived in painted mansions, and let their slaves do the work for them. In an increasingly commercial (p.13) Southern world, plain folk considered themselves marginalized within the thinly populated pine forest but understood that its free and open livestock range was the foundation of their self-sufficiency. From the woods they dealt with their growing involvement in the market economy and slavery on their own terms and to their own advantage. By 1860, however, the wiregrass country was virtually surrounded by plantations given over to the production of cotton and rice. Even within the forest, the boundaries between pineland and river bottoms were contested areas where negotiations between plain folk and planters took place over land use and slavery. This debate helped both define and unify plain folk, who saw their region threatened by the expanding plantation system. As one pinelander declared in 1861, it was the “piney woods against the world.”4

Seemingly simple and static, the lower Ocmulgee was actually complex and dynamic. As John Whaley had recognized in the 1850s, economic and social forces were changing the region. Images of the piney woods as a homogenous region isolated from the Southern mainstream and populated by a monolithic and precapitalistic poor white yeomanry were themselves stereotypes, the inventions of abolitionists, writers of romantic fiction, and creators of travelogues. As Whaley doubtless understood, planters did not own all of the slaves and cotton farms. Plain folk entered the marketplace in growing numbers. In time, the lower Ocmulgee's landscape was transformed by nineteenth-century settlers into two clearly distinguishable patterns: piney white belts, where less than 20 percent of the people were enslaved, located in southeastern Pulaski County and in the backwoods of Coffee, Irwin, Telfair, and Wilcox Counties; and fertile black belts, where upward of 20 percent of the people were enslaved, situated in northern Pulaski County and down the river valley.5

Scattered across these landscapes were rural neighborhoods with populations and economies that varied depending on soil quality, crop specialization, the availability of labor, and access to markets. Black belt neighborhoods were more densely settled than those in white belts. Regardless of their location, neighborhoods—collections of households, churches, fields, mills, country stores, and woodlands—formed the foundation of local society. It was on this level that the plain folk collectively defined the characteristics that gave their communities identity and meaning. The county seat towns of Abbeville, Douglas, Hawkinsville, Jacksonville, and Irwinville were but wide places in the road and reflected the area's overwhelmingly rural nature. Not one person along the lower Ocmulgee lived in a locale of much more than three hundred people, the population of Hawkinsville, the area's major market town.6 (p.14)

on the cotton frontier

The lower Ocmulgee River region in 1860. Black belt neighborhoods were situated above Hawkinsville in northern Pulaski County and along the river flood plain until its confluence with the Oconee River. White belt neighborhoods were located in the more remote backwoods beyond the river valley.

(p.15) There were few places in the antebellum South where country people were more predominant. Plain folk constituted the majority of white households in every neighborhood. Of the 2,090 white households along the lower river in 1859, plain folk accounted for nine out of ten. Even in a cotton-rich county like Pulaski, they represented eight out of ten white households. And despite its reputation as a black belt county, Pulaski alone accounted for 40 percent of the area's plain folk, the remaining 60 percent coming from the four “lower” counties of Coffee, Irwin, Telfair, and Wilcox. It was there, in a world where the longleaf pine shaded as much as 90 percent of the land, that slaveless plain folk and small masters raised livestock and farmed “small pieces of ground … by their own labor.”7

A majority of plain folk—households working less than 150 acres and owning fewer than ten slaves—lived in backwoods neighborhoods. The white belt they formed accounted for well over one-half of the lower Ocmulgee's land area. The backwoods began just beyond the river valley's hardwoods and ran deep into the virgin pine forests of antebellum Coffee, Irwin, Pulaski, Telfair, and Wilcox Counties. Despite its overall size, the backwoods—unlike the black belt neighborhoods—was sparsely populated, often with less than five inhabitants per square mile. One could journey through the woods for ten miles and not pass a farm. A traveler recalled that in 1858 “only at long intervals did rude pine log huts present themselves … in all this vast solitude, save Nature clothed in the majesty of her glory.” Planters did not find nature's “glory” impressive and avoided the pine barrens, leaving a landscape of virgin woodlands stretching “far beyond the range of human vision.”8

The vast majority of the backwoods' plain folk were native-born Georgians. Ninety-seven percent of Coffee County's inhabitants—black and white—were born in state. Although land ownership was widespread in the pine belt, the actual amount of cultivated land was small. Fifty percent of the farms in Irwin, Telfair, and Wilcox Counties contained less than fifty improved acres. At the Bird's Mill neighborhood in Coffee County, two-thirds of the households worked fifty acres or less, about average for the county.9

Unlike reclusive John Whaley, most plain folk remained along the lower Ocmulgee and coexisted with planters and slaves in an increasingly commercial economy. Lucius Williams was typical of the slaveless plain folk who worked small farms with white family labor. In 1860 he lived with his wife Catherine Garrison Williams and son William in a white belt neighborhood where planters were exceptions. Their household depended on sixty acres of land and a two-horse farm to grow crops. In 1859 they harvested two hundred (p.16) bushels of corn as well as sweet potatoes, beans, and peas. With about seventy cows, hogs, and sheep in the woods, they made good use of the open range.10

Without grown children or slaves to supplement the household's labor, Catherine joined Lucius in the fields year-round. Although elite Southern women felt that field work lowered white females to the level of slaves, plain folk households needed every available worker to help set out corn and cane, dig and bank sweet potatoes, hoe and pick cotton, and tend vegetable patches and livestock. Both husband and wife participated in the day-to-day management of the farm. Rather than compare such plain folk households to other groups of Southerners, a New Englander who spent months in the antebellum piney woods wrote that “generally they have but few if any slaves & live like N. E. farmers … by their own labor.”11

When it came to devoting land and labor to crops, corn came first. Without fertilizer most farmers expected to raise about 10 bushels per acre on piney woods land, but the use of home fertilizers such as cow manure doubled the yield in a very good year. Farmers fortunate enough to own bottomland could make up to 50 bushels per acre. Since corn and cotton were planted at about the same time and competed with each other for labor, plain folk and planters made clear choices between planting corn for home consumption and cotton for market. On average, each Southerner consumed about 13 bushels of corn per year, corn bread, grits, hoecake, and hominy being common table fare. By 1860 the lower Ocmulgee's farms produced an average of 35 bushels per person, a level above the state average of 29 bushels but far behind those of the Upper South and the Midwest. Corn fodder—blades stripped from the stalk and cured in the sun—was an important source of food for cattle and a local substitute for hay. A corn crop of 100 bushels easily produced 1,000 pounds of fodder, which in times of hay shortage was bartered and sold on the local market for five to six dollars per stack in the mid-1850s.12

The lower counties' reputation as a region where corn replaced cotton was misleading. Many backwoods neighborhoods were more diversified than they first appeared. Although corn was the most conspicuous white belt crop, the plain folk's ability to meet and surpass levels of self-sufficiency in this critical foodstuff was limited. The amount of cleared land barely met their needs. Unlike the more fertile black belt, backwoods farmers worked marginal land with family labor, tilling soil described as “very poor in all the elements of fertility.” In addition to poor land, the households of slaveless plain folk had limited access to farm labor, usually within their own kinship or communal neighborhood networks. As a result, in 1859 levels of corn production (p.17) for Telfair County barely surpassed self-sufficiency and fell short in Wilcox, whereas upriver in Pulaski County, fertile land and slave labor yielded a surplus of corn. Corn country's prized crop was often in short supply in the lower counties, particularly if households devoted scarce labor to cotton.13

In an effort to diversify and produce something worth exchanging on the local market, plain folk turned to other crops. Sugarcane, because it could be converted into cane syrup and raw sugar, was popular. Although grown in small patches throughout the region, it was more abundant in the lower counties. As one antebellum traveler reported of southern Georgia: “Every one here raises cane for sugar enough for his own use only.” But it was cane syrup, not raw sugar, that offered the greatest potential for trade. Cane was planted in the spring at about the same time as corn, rice, and cotton. Most farmers expected to get slightly over 100 gallons of cane syrup per acre. Telfair was the banner syrup county, producing over 11,000 gallons in 1859. Many lower Ocmulgee planters rationed syrup to their slaves. James Lathrop's slave Martha recalled cane syrup being rationed on his Pulaski County plantation along with “greens, meat, ‘taters an’ cornbread.” But the black belt neighborhoods, while producing a surplus of corn, did not meet adequate levels of syrup production. Thus, plantations became markets for plain folk syrup just as they sometimes became the source of corn for needy yeoman households in times of grain shortages. The center of this exchange was the market town of Hawkinsville, where syrup was sold in stores by the gallon and the barrel.14

Although most often associated with tidewater plantations and slave labor, rice joined the plain folk's crop mix. Taken together, the white belt lower counties collectively formed a significant pocket of interior production. Together, households there grew as much as 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of rice per year in the 1850s, whereas Pulaski's cotton farmers grew less than 2,500 pounds in 1859. In some households, rice was a secondary grain crop after corn. Most plain folk practiced a form of dry cultivation and planted rice between rows of corn. Greenleaf Dearborn observed this method of rice growing in wiregrass Georgia in 1836: “Here they sew it on high land,” he wrote, “&it looks more like oats than any other grain and grows about as high.”15

At Irwinville and Bird's Mill, neighborhoods situated over twenty miles from the river, 28 and 41 percent of the households, respectively, grew rice, proportions even higher than those in river valley communities. Bird's Mill in southern Coffee County, whose proportion of slaveholding was among the smallest of all backwoods communities, boasted a higher proportion of rice growers than any other neighborhood. Several nonslaveholding plain folk (p.18) grew over 1,000 pounds of rice, a significant amount when William Manning's plantation with one hundred slaves to work and feed produced 3,360 pounds in 1859. Among plain folk, adding rice to the crop mix was a matter of dietary preference, rice replacing on the tables of yeoman households in the lower counties the wheat often grown by farmers upriver. But some plain folk sold or bartered portions of their small crops to planters as slave rations or traded rice for goods at country stores such as McRae and McMillan, where rice was sold in amounts as small as five pounds and for a little over six cents per pound. Like cane syrup, rice was as good as money in the pockets of plain folk.16

Plain folk households that included young male farm laborers under their roofs were able to exceed levels of self-sufficiency and enter the market economy on a more ambitious scale. Archibald Campbell, for example, cultivated a iooacre farm with the help of four sons in a white belt neighborhood of Telfair County. Together they grew 500 bushels of corn and tended 350 cows, hogs, and sheep. They also picked three bales of cotton in 1859.

The extent of cotton growing among plain folk households is surprising given the wiregrass region's reputation as corn country. Perhaps more than any other single endeavor, cotton production was an indication of the market economy's penetration into the heart of the forest. In Telfair County during the 1850s the cotton crop increased by almost 50 percent, only slightly less than the 51 percent rate recorded upriver in more fertile Pulaski County. Doubtless the expanding operations of small and large planters accounted for much of the increase in Telfair, but plain folk along the lower river continued to enter the market as well. Although the vast majority of these yeomen, like those in other parts of the South, traditionally placed food production for home consumption first, cotton's growing presence in the wiregrass was at odds with such concepts of household self-sufficiency but in step with growing plain folk involvement with the cotton market in Georgia's plantation belt.17

Indeed, by the 1850s many plain folk households in white belt settlements could not leave the fleecy crop alone. While slave labor and cotton growing was heavily concentrated in Wilcox County's river bottom neighborhoods of Abbeville, Cedar Creek, and House Creek, cotton growing spilled beyond the bottomlands into the piney woods. In the Gibbs and Snow Hill settlements, for example, almost 60 percent of the households grew one or two bales of cotton, a proportion not far behind the level of cotton production in parts of Augusta's hinterland. Almost all of the backwoods Wilcox yeomen worked fewer than one hundred acres, many fewer than seventy-five. Still, cotton (p.19) growing made inroads in a county that did not quite meet levels of self-sufficiency in corn in 1859. Upriver in the Gum Swamp neighborhood of eastern Pulaski County, cotton growing was even more pervasive. There, 85 percent of the households grew some cotton and almost 40 percent cultivated one or two bales, which matched the production levels of small growers in black belt Glascock County. With only 15 percent of the Gum Swamp's house-holds led by slaveowners, it is not surprising that 82 percent of the growers were nonslaveholding farmers. Among these small producers, a bale or two beyond the requirements of the household were grown and sold or bartered in Hawkinsville, where farmers picked up coffee, sugar, and other items.18

Although plain folk grew relatively small amounts of cotton compared to planters, their one or two bale crops should not necessarily be viewed as a highly cautious entry into the market economy. The wonder is that over 50 percent of the households in some neighborhoods grew cotton in any quantity above home needs, given the constraints of poor soil, small farms, and scarce labor. River valley planters enjoyed tremendous advantages over plain folk when it came to cotton growing. It started with the soil. In 1858 Wilcox County planter Norman McDuffie boasted in a letter to the Pulaski Times that 1,400 pounds of seed cotton was picked from a single acre on his plantation and “if not injured by storm or otherwise, I shall pick from the same acre, at least 1,500 pounds more.” Although he suggested that McDuffie might be exaggerating, the editor noted that this was the best cotton yield reported in many years. McDuffie's output, however much he may have stretched the truth, pointed up the tremendous inequities of fertile land distribution and the shaping of the social geography that resulted. The mucky bottomlands routinely yielded from 800 to 1,000 pounds of seed cotton when fresh and continued to produce similar amounts for several years.19

The sandy soils of the piney uplands, on the other hand, yielded 500 pounds of seed cotton per acre when new ground, but dropped to only 100 pounds of lint cotton after a few years. Consequently, it took plain folk four acres to produce a single 4oopound bale of ginned cotton, at least twice as much land as needed along the river. Yeomen thus faced tough choices if they were determined to grow cotton at any level above that required to meet household needs. Unlike planters such as Norman McDuffie, most plain folk lacked the slave labor needed to both increase cotton output and maintain food crop production. Moreover, to get the highest cotton yield for their labor, and therefore the highest cash return, the cotton land needed to be their most fertile. From the standpoint of household self-sufficiency, it made no (p.20)

on the cotton frontier

A backwoods cabin with a mud and stick chimney typical of those inhabited by plain folk. (Olmsted, A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, 385; courtesy of Audio-Visual Archives, Special Collections and Archives, University of Kentucky Libraries)

(p.21) sense for backwoods yeomen such as W. T. Faircloth to grow two bales while cultivating only forty-five acres of land and raising two hundred bushels of corn. Too much of his land—possibly as much as eight acres—was going to cotton. Faircloth was not alone. In the House Creek neighborhood, where less than 10 percent of white households were slaveholders, plain folk tossed caution to the wind and increasingly turned to cotton.20

A yeoman's status could rise head and shoulders above that of his neighbors when he combined slaveholding with cotton farming. By doing so, he increased his household level of cotton production as well as his household wealth. The benefits of adding slave labor to white family labor was not lost on ambitious plain folk. Alfred Burnham, for example, was one of the wealthiest farmers in the Copeland neighborhood of Telfair County. With the help of four sons and the adults among his nine slaves, Burnham's three hundred improved acres produced twelve bales of cotton and two thousand bushels of corn in 1859. At age fifty-two, he was a solid member of a prosperous neighborhood of plain folk and small planters, almost all involved to varying degrees in cotton growing. Burnham's house may have remained unpainted, but, as his slave Easter Reed later described it, it was “a nice big one.” Only the small planters in his neighborhood could boast farms of greater cash value than Burnham's.21

Alfred Burnham was not alone. He belonged to a diverse group of plain folk owning nine slaves or less; half of them owned fewer than five. They accounted for 70 percent of all slaveholders and 20 percent of all white house-holds in 1860. Like Burnham, about one-half of all plain folk masters lived in the lower counties, while the remainder resided in Pulaski. Yeoman slave-holders represented a group that slaveless plain folk could realistically aspire to join. The odds were long—about twenty to one—that a local white head of household could become a planter. The odds were much better—about five to one—that that person could become a yeoman slaveholder. Unassuming and hardworking, most yeoman masters labored alongside their slaves and the white farmworkers in their families. A relative of yeoman master Abram Hargraves recalled that the Coffee County farmer “made a good plow hand in the field, as long as he lived.” Hargraves was remembered as thrifty and unpretentious. “He wore a homespun shirt, carried a shot bag over his shoulders, a powder horn around his waist, and did not, in any way, have the appearance of being a well-to-do farmer.” Despite his homespun look, however, the two slave cabins in his yard signaled to passersby that he was a farmer on the make.22

(p.22) Unlike plain folk masters in black belt neighborhoods such as Copeland, those in the piney woods rarely claimed planters as neighbors. Consequently, there were fewer slaves in the backwoods and those who lived there belonged to plain folk. The proportion of slaveholding households in the white belts was as low as the 6 percent at Bird's Mill. Gum Swamp's 15 percent, which was close to the average, was one-half the proportion of slaveholding households found along the river valley's narrow band of black belt neighborhoods. Such enslaved African Americans were mostly women and children isolated from the larger slave communities. When slaves belonging to the estate of J. C. Young were put on the auction block in Irwin County in 1852, for instance, seven women and children were sold to six bidders, mostly plain folk. Slave women cost less than men and were thus more affordable to plain folk, who could expect a slave woman's reproductive labor to pay for their investment in the future.23

Because of their large numbers, kinship ties, and position in the social hierarchy, slaveowning plain folk were an important part of the economic and social fabric. They formed a middle ground between slaveless yeoman farmers and the planters situated on the white belts' edges. Together, yeoman masters and planters accounted for 30 percent of all white households. Marriages between slaveless plain folk, small masters, and planter families unified communities spatially and ideologically and lessened the social gap between the groups. Although 70 percent of white households did not own slaves, it was not uncommon for a family member to claim a slaveholder as blood kin or a relative through marriage. In the 1850s John Vickers, the son of slaveholder Rebecca Vickers, married the daughter of a small planter and John's brother Henry wed the daughter of a slaveless yeoman. By marrying up and down the social hierarchy, plain folk masters expanded the ideological foundation of racial slavery by introducing it into the households of nonslaveholders.24

Despite the gaggle of slaveless yeomen, small masters, and planters who often celebrated the Fourth of July together or met on militia grounds, plain folk and planters knew where the important boundaries were and their implications for the social geography. In his will, planter John Daniel not only stipulated that some of his land was “on the river,” an important distinction, but he also described “a drain or hollow which divides the pine land and oak land adjoining.” Daniel's hollow formed a boundary between black and white belt lands. By 1860 small planters and larger planters—owning ten to nineteen and over twenty slaves, respectively—were heads of 182 white households or 9 percent of the total. Just over 70 percent of these planters lived in black belt neighborhoods in Pulaski County or along the fertile river bottomlands between (p.23) Hawkinsville and Lumber City, where the competition for land drove up prices. Writing from the Copeland neighborhood in 1843, yeoman farmer John Malloy sought a $600 loan from his brother in North Carolina to pay off his debt for land, noting that his soil was “as rich as ever a crow flew over.”25

Although planters were a distinct minority m an overwhelming plain tolk majority, their power and influence far outweighed their numbers. Their dominion over the best land and slave labor marked them as people to be reckoned with economically, politically, and socially. The unmistakable signs of their commercial endeavors were evident in the black belts, which were “very thick settled” by the early 1840s. Cotton fields stretched to the horizon, head-high rail fences surrounded crops, and the price of everything—especially land and slaves—was high. But the planters' investments paid off. The value of Pulaski real estate in 1860 was worth more than the combined value of all land in the four lower counties. Forty-three percent of the lower river's approximately two thousand white families lived in Pulaski, a testimony to fertile land's power to attract settlers. By 1860 this area was on the southern frontier of Middle Georgia's cotton belt. It was this world that John Whaley left behind.26

Good cotton land was the key to building an estate worth handing down to the next generation. When Pulaski County planter Cornelius Bozeman was asked his opinion of the quality of a tract in 1830, he frankly told an acquaintance that the property was “worthless and quite barren and out of the way.” What Bozeman meant was that the land was “worthless” for growing cotton and “out of the way” as far as access to steamboat landings was concerned. In other words, it was a plain folk landscape, which Bozeman discounted in favor of richer plantation land. Generally, the richest black belt land was in northern Pulaski County and along the lower river valley. The unifying geological feature of much of this area was an underlying formation of soft or “rotten” limestone that enriched the sandy loams. The soil, variously described as “yellow loam” or “mulatto” land, was underlaid by clay subsoil that kept moisture near the roots of cotton plants. Such choice land was quickly taken over by slaveholders. Only ten years after Pulaski's formation in 1808, its tax rolls revealed a heavy concentration of slaves in black belt neighborhoods such as Longstreet and their near absence in white belt settlements such as Gum Swamp.27

Seaborn Manning was one of the lower Ocmulgee's big planters. In 1860, when he was thirty-eight, his estate was valued at $35,000 in real and $80,000 in personal property, including 5,500 acres of land and a store in Hawkinsville. (p.24) Manning's fifty slaves worked 1,500 improved acres and produced 179 bales of cotton in 1859. At an average price of ten cents per pound, he grossed around $7,000 on a single cotton crop. Such wealth allowed Manning and his wife Harriette to acquire the ottoman, piano, ornamental fireplace dogs, china, and silver tableware that graced their home and the jewelry that adorned her. The cotton boom of the 1850s benefited planters living in black belt neighborhoods like Longstreet, situated beyond Manning's plantation. Longstreet had all the makings of a village, including an academy, churches, mills, and a new railroad depot, but its driving economic force was cotton. Ninety-seven percent of the neighborhood's households grew cotton; one in four of them belonged to a planter.28

Despite the presence of some of the county's biggest planters, seven out of ten of Longstreet's cotton growers were nonslaveholding plain folk. Settled in cheek by jowl among the planters, the majority of them worked farms of seventy-five or more improved acres, larger than those of backwoods plain folk. Like yeoman farmers in Georgia's upcountry, they found cotton growing an attractive way to build estates and increase household consumption. Members of their own family worked their fields. With the arrival of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad at John Coley's place on the eve of the Civil War, greater access to transportation provided plain folk with opportunities to expand the domestic economy beyond cotton, home manufactures, and livestock. The railroad's tracks were soon lined with crossties, firewood, and sawmill lumber bound for Macon.29

The Pulaski County pattern extended southward along a black belt of fertile land formed by the Ocmulgee River's floodplain. Its mixed hardwood bottomland was covered by a dark, mucky soil, the timeless accumulation of mast and silt deposited by annual freshets. By the early 1840s river valley cotton farmers and planters could “hear the steam Boats constantly running,” according to one yeoman. Neighborhoods with names such as Copeland and Spalding grew up along the river, but like Longstreet they were not the exclusive communities of planters. In 1860 only about one-third of all planters lived in the four lower counties of Coffee, Irwin, Telfair, and Wilcox. Nevertheless, the extent to which planter wealth dominated the narrow black belt neighborhoods was evident in the Spalding neighborhood of Coffee County. Planters large and small accounted for about one-fourth of Spalding's households. The leading planter in the four lower counties was William Manning, whose 100 slaves and 9,500 acres at Spalding comprised an estate rivaled only by Long-street planters.30 (p.25)

on the cotton frontier

The Ocmulgee River and its tributary creeks united most of the region and gave planters and cotton farmers access to coastal markets. (Courtesy of Georgia Archives)

(p.26) Spalding's big cotton growers, landlords, and slaveholders clustered on the best soil near William Fussell's country store. Manning and six other wealthy planters produced almost half of the county's 1859 cotton crop and owned over half of the cash value of Spalding's farms. They also owned 35 percent of the county's slaves. Because of the concentration of large plantations at Spalding, its white inhabitants formed only a small minority of the neighborhood's population. They were overwhelmingly outnumbered by enslaved African Americans, whose presence created a narrow black belt within a predominantly white belt region. Beyond the planters, the white families at Spalding ran the gamut of Southern society Approximately two-thirds were nonslaveholding plain folk who cultivated fewer than fifty acres of land. They included William Catoe, a poor white who worked one acre of land and existed off small quantities of corn and sweet potatoes. Most, however, were yeoman farmers such as George Pridgen, who grew no cotton but small quantities of corn and sweet potatoes.31

Local planters and plain folk masters owning more than five slaves belonged to a privileged group of Georgians that possessed perhaps 90 percent of the state's wealth while representing only one-fifth of its white families. Their economic ambitions, social aspirations, and investments in fertile land and slaves linked them to a community of interest that included Georgia's wealthiest planters. Whether local masters owned one or one hundred slaves, they too shared mutual interests and obligations: they exercised the right to own human property, they controlled and exploited slave labor, they could divide slave families at will, and they would lose significant amounts of wealth if their slaves died, escaped, or were freed. Collectively, they formed an economic and social middle ground between Georgia's cotton belt planter elite and the plain folk of the wiregrass country.32

Plain folk and planters shared concerns beyond slaveholding and the privileged status it brought to all whites, slaveholders and nonslaveholders alike. In a rural world where as little as 5 to 15 percent of the landscape was improved by 1860, the openrange system of livestock herding formed a critical part of the domestic economy. As one Methodist circuit rider observed of the plain folk, “most of the people … lived by raising stock.” The relative values of livestock, as opposed to real estate, reflected the growing importance of herding over farming as one traveled downriver into the white belt. In Pulaski County, the value of livestock in 1860 represented only about 26 percent of the real estate value of all farms, while in Wilcox County it increased to almost 40 percent and in Telfair County to almost 70 percent.33

(p.27) Southern livestock herding often has been associated with squatters and small farmers who grazed cattle on public lands, but the local picture was more complex. Although cotton belt planters and plain folk were increasingly at odds over the passage of fence laws, the enormous tracts of wiregrass range “recognized as free pasturage for all stock” diminished the competition between commercial farmers and livestock herders for land. Indeed, both plain folk and planters were heavily involved in local livestock herding, and both groups had an interest in the openrange system. In Spalding, for example, planters Jonathan Ashley and William Manning were by far the leading cattlemen, each owning almost four times the value of livestock held by the largest yeoman stockman. Collectively, however, the neighborhood's few planters owned half of all its livestock. Further, although planters owned much of Spalding's real property and farmed the most fertile bottomland, as much as 90 percent of their holdings remained unfenced and unimproved pineland—a common grazing range open to all citizens. Thus planters, who paid taxes on most of the river valley and much of the adjoining wiregrass range, shouldered most of the tax cost of the openrange system in neighborhoods where black and white belts met.34

The openrange system did more than put butter, milk, and pork on the table. It created market opportunities for range products. Sheep grazed on wiregrass year-round and were rounded up in pens and sorted by their markings. They were clipped in late April and early May. Wool was one of the most important range products and one the white belt counties dominated. Telfair County's grazing lands alone produced three times the wool clipped in black belt Pulaski County in 1859. The market price for wool often exceeded that of cotton, and wool production was much less labor-intensive. Plain folk and planters closely followed wool prices, selling to local merchants or wool buyers at the most advantageous time or hauling it to market in Savannah. Wool production allowed plain folk to compete with planters on an equal footing in at least one sector of the local economy. At Spalding, yeoman-herder house-holds clipped 50 percent of the neighborhood's wool. Country and county seat stores became the centers of local exchange. Martha McRae bought alpaca, gingham, raisins, shoes, and tobacco at the neighborhood store in 1854. She paid off her account by the credit she received for bringing in 192 pounds of wool valued at sixteen cents per pound. Thus, “buying more land and sheep” was the plain folk answer to the planters' cry for more cotton and slaves.35

It is not surprising, then, that protecting the openrange system was a (p.28) mutual concern of local plain folk and planters, a type of self-interested cooperation that shaped a sense of community. When traditional rights of grazing and gleaning so critical to the plain folk's domestic economy were threatened, citizens turned to the General Assembly to protect a natural resource that supported the domestic economy. In 1859, for instance, livestock men in Irwin and Wilcox Counties lobbied successfully for a law taxing non-resident herders five cents per head more than residents to curtail overgrazing of the range by outsiders. Laws were also passed to regulate firing the woods and to prevent camp hunting by outsiders, who used range fires to drive game into killing zones. As one piece of protective legislation observed, nonresidents were “running stock wild, and often destroying whole herds,… hunting deer and other species of game.” Such callous disregard for the range and the commonweal was addressed through favorable statutes by local state legislators, who were often livestock raisers themselves.36

The timber growing on the range was another interest that plain folk and planters shared. After crops were harvested and the weather cooled, yeoman farmers and slaves headed for the woods to chop timber and raft logs to river valley sawmills or to Darien. According to one lower river farmer, his house-hold's “main source of revenue was from timber.” A few men such as Wilcox County raft pilot Joseph Covington made a humble living from the timber trade. But “getting out scab timber” was an important, albeit seasonal, source of income for many households. Yeoman farmer Allen Powell and his sons herded cattle, raised subsistence crops, and picked a bale of cotton in 1859, but in their spare time they cut timber to make ends meet. Planters Oliver Cook, John Dorminy, Samuel Fuller, Norman McDuffie, and Thomas L. Willcox also participated in the timber trade, using slaves as woodchoppers and raft hands. The business in lumber was so important that plain folk and planters gathered at local conventions and lobbied the General Assembly for legislation favorable to the timber trade, including the “laying out” of timber roads to river landings. In 1853 well over one hundred lower Ocmulgee timber cutters met at Lumber City, where they combined a Fourth of July celebration with the selection of agents to represent them in their negotiations with timber buyers. Keeping timber roads open and rafting streams cleared, along with the apprehension of log thieves, were ongoing concerns for those involved in the trade, regardless of social standing. In Telfair County, timber thieves caused “great injury and damage” to private lands by furtively cutting down trees and floating them to sawmills. Acting in the interest of an absentee owner, one agent in 1856 implored Jacksonville attorney William Paine to prevent the (p.29) theft of timber “so far as possible … or make it so that the parties pay for the timber.”37

Unlike plain folk and planters, one large group of people did not go to the lower Ocmulgee region voluntarily. By 1860 enslaved African Americans comprised 27 percent of its population. They were among the first settlers to reach the Ocmulgee. Most, like their masters, were native-born Georgians; many came from farms and plantations in the eastern part of the state. George Walker was one white person who played a role in the Ocmulgee's settlement. In 1817, as a young man, he brought four slaves into Pulaski County for his father, George Walker Sr. An Irish-born cotton farmer, George Sr. had moved from Burke County to Longstreet ten years earlier and began to clear land for his plantation. His son's importation of William, Isaac, Isom, and Susan raised Walker's total number of slaves to forty, making him the fourth largest planter in a county rapidly becoming a part of the cotton South. At the end of the antebellum era slavery was a vibrant and growing institution on the cotton frontier, the number of slaves increasing by 50 percent in the 1850s.38

Many slaves reached the Ocmulgee in coffles, chained together and sold by slave “speculators” at Macon and other places. The process of obtaining new slave laborers for lower Ocmulgee farms and plantations continued throughout the antebellum period. Slave coffles and auctions were common sights. Balaam Sparrow, for example, was born in North Carolina during the mid-1820s and sold twice before he became the property of a Pulaski County master. He left behind his mother Lizzy and several siblings. Sparrow's experience exemplified the antebellum pattern of the sale of Upper South slaves to Lower South planters and cotton farmers, a long-distance relocation that shifted as many as one million slaves to the interior of the Deep South.39

Most slaves were field hands. On large plantations like Seaborn Manning's, work was highly regimented and organized around gang labor. More common in the black belt neighborhoods where over half of the lower river slaves lived on plantations, gang labor divided the field hands into several groups that plowed, hoed, and weeded depending on the need. Because only three local planters owned more than a hundred slaves and only a dozen more than fifty, overseers were not used as extensively as they were in central Georgia. Planters or their sons frequently supervised the work themselves or used male slaves as drivers. Longstreet planter Thomas Walker, for instance, used slave Sarah Nance's father as a “Nigger Driver” or “subforeman or straw boss.” On small plantations and farms, the task system was more common among small masters such as Alfred Burnham. There was little or no division of slave labor (p.30) where whites and blacks worked together. One of yeoman Madison Snell's slave women “worked in the fields and also cooked for her Master,” combining domestic and field work. On such farms the degree of contact and familiarity between masters and slaves inevitably increased. Burnham's slaves ate in his kitchen after the white family had finished. His slave girl Easter recalled: “Ours came out of the same oven an' pots that the white fokes used.”40

Slave field hands included both men and women, as was usually the case among slaveless plain folk. Arthur Colson recalled that his mother Molly was a common “plow hand,” while his father Ephram Taylor plowed, hoed, and split fence rails on Jackson Coalson's plantation. The heavy work—clearing new land and grubbing out roots—fell on the shoulders of prime male field hands. Because of their greater capacity for heavy work, prime hands were ranked at the top of the slave labor force and cost more than most other unskilled slaves. In 1855 Thully Williamson's prime hands Alex, Jack, Lige, Sampson, and Shade—all between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-three—were valued between $900 and $1,100. The ability to bear children and do field work pushed up the price of slave women, just as their value dropped dramatically when they passed the childbearing years. In 1850 the appraisers of Wilson Mobley's estate in Irwin County valued fifty-five-year-old Sally at only $150, whereas eighteen-year-old Jane and her four-year-old daughter were together valued at $1,000. Indeed, on both plantations and yeoman farms, slave children, who seemed to be everywhere, represented the future labor force for planters and plain folk.41

The practice of purchasing a slave woman and depending on her reproductive capability to increase the value of an estate was evident on farms of plain folk like Wiley Whitley. His single slave cabin was home to a twenty-seven-year-old mulatto woman and five children between the ages of one and seven. With the female slave performing as both field hand and house servant, Whitley's white family would have to work for a decade or more to feed, clothe, and shelter her dependent children before the oldest among them could carry their weight in the fields. But as a corn farmer and livestock herder who planted no cotton in 1859, Whitley could afford to wait. As he grew older, so too would his slave children, and their value would increase. Whitley was not alone. In fact, from 33 to 43 percent of all slaves, depending on their master's county of residence, were under ten years of age in 1860. In Pulaski County, where most planters and slaveholding plain folk lived, children under the age of fourteen accounted for 45 percent of the enslaved population. Yeoman masters viewed these young slaves as integral parts of a future domestic (p.31) economy, as well as chattel of value on the slave market. Increasing cotton growing and slave ownership among plain folk created common ties between black and white belt neighborhoods, joining kinship and the common range as factors that eased tension between these communities.42

Just as livestock herding and timber cutting produced common bonds between plain folk and planters, slavery created economic and social ties between the two groups, often to a surprising degree. In 1860 almost 40 percent of Pulaski County's white households owned at least one slave, and 45 percent owned between one and five. Such plain folk had a substantial economic interest in slavery's future since a few slaves often accounted for well over half the value of a farmer's property. This was certainly true of Pulaski farmer Isaac Johnson. At the time of his death in 1856, Johnson's slaves Joe, Fanny, Mose, and Sam were valued at $3,250 and represented almost 80 percent of his total wealth.43

The lower Ocmulgee's social structure found slave men, women, and children at the bottom of a society arranged around white concepts of race, class, and gender. Above the slaves were white plain folk ranging from poor whites to yeoman masters. At the top were planters, who, though constituting a powerful elite, were nevertheless a small minority of the population. Everyone had a place or social standing in the community. As Governor Joseph E. “Joe” Brown, who was widely respected along the lower river, put it: The “white class is the ruling class.” Regardless of their obvious differences in wealth, the white majority was bound together by race. A slaveholder himself, Brown believed that the very existence of racial slavery made all whites, including plain folk, members of the ruling class. A white person's elevated position in society, he wrote, instilled “pride of character and a shared heritage which prepared him to participate in the political affairs of the State.”44

Brown's use of “him” reflected the privileged role enjoyed by adult white males regardless of class. White men were husbands, fathers, property owners, voters, officeholders, soldiers, and slave patrollers. The household, the basic unit of domestic production and reproduction, was normally organized around white male landowners, who controlled the dependent women and children living on their place. Members of society—male and female, slave and free—found their social station largely defined by the status of the male head of household. The control of households by white men was patterned after and reinforced by religious beliefs. There was biblical justification for male “authority” over the dependent women, children, and slaves living on their property. God, who in turn chose men to govern His earthly household, (p.32) governed man. As ministers of the Pulaski Primitive Baptist Association noted in 1847 regarding white male authority, God “gave to each their respective charges saying occupy till I come.” This privileged position brought with it responsibilities. A white man was “accountable for his [household] government or stewardship to God.” In exchange for the obedience of women, children, and slaves, white men provided the basic necessities of life, including protection from want and physical harm. Honorable white men considered this relationship to be private in nature, with little or no interference in their rule of “their respective charges” by other people or government.45

As wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, white women also had well-defined roles in society, ones that normally subordinated them to men. Many women found these roles delineated by religious beliefs. White women were to be dutiful and obedient helpers to the male governors of their daily lives. Primitive Baptists, who constituted a major community of faith in the back-woods, believed that the “sisters” were critical to the success of male “heads of families.” Women were cautioned not to “usurp authority over man” but were encouraged to use “chaste conversation coupled with love” to support their men in household governance. Much “depends on you,” a group of church elders declared to women, “for you can do more for their encouragement in the discharge of their duties than any other earthly instrument.”46

Women literally were the instruments of childbirth, a key to economic independence among the slaveless plain folk majority. A woman's reproductive capacity was critical. More children meant more farm laborers. At seventy-seven, Robert Jones of Telfair County was too old to do much work himself. But a younger wife gave birth to four males in six years; in 1860 all of them were between the ages of fifteen and twenty, and all were described by the census taker as “farmer” or “laborer.” For nonslaveholders like Jones, children were the means to household self-sufficiency and comfort in their old age. With limited opportunities for personal or economic advancement, most farmwomen took pride in their household management and their children, turning inwardly to domesticity for self-definition as men turned outwardly toward the marketplace and the political arena. Within their humble sphere, women were regarded as exemplars of modesty and virtue.47

Some women, however, were masters of slaves, a status that gave them a vested interest in the peculiar institution. Sixteen percent of Telfair County's planters were women, as were almost 20 percent of its small planters and 15 percent of its plain folk. Many women slaveholders were widows. Sarah Willcox, the wife of influential Telfair planter-politician Mark Willcox, came into (p.33)

on the cotton frontier

A common log cabin of the type inhabited by poor whites and slaves. (Hall, Forty Etchings, plate xxii; courtesy of Audio-Visual Archives, Special Collections and Archives, University of Kentucky Libraries)

(p.34) possession of twenty slaves following his death in 1852. Married or widowed, such women were seldom fragile plantation belles. They were capable house-hold managers who often took pride in their ability to oversee farmwork as well. In 1849, in a letter to her husband who was away in California, Charlotte Taylor wrote from Hawkinsville: “We shall commence planting the new ground next week. The negroes have conducted them selves very well and worked as well as I could expect them.” Some slaveholders took special steps to ensure that women as well as men enjoyed the benefits of slave ownership. When Pulaski planter John Daniel died in 1830, he divided thirty-six slaves equally between his sons and daughters, making certain that daughter Mary, for instance, could expect the lifestyle of privilege to which she was accustomed. Mary became the owner of Caty, Silas, Clary, Caroline, and Henry “with the future increase of the females.” In this manner, planters bequeathed the slave system they brought to the lower Ocmulgee to their children and grandchildren, a system that made white women in slaveholding households the beneficiaries of black bondage from cradle to grave.48

Despite the hierarchical nature of Southern society, the lives of country people—black and white, slave and free, rich and poor—were intermingled. Rural neighborhoods were distinguished by communalism, an interdependence of plain folk families to accomplish tasks that were beyond the means of individual households. The entire year was marked by such occasions as logrolling in winter, burning the woods in spring, sheep shearing in May, fodder pulling in August, and hog killing in December and January. These neighborhood rites engaged whites and blacks and were followed by eating, drinking, and dancing, the same activities that took place on prominent holidays like the Fourth of July and Christmas. Churches, however, were the most important social institutions beyond the family household. Such cooperation forged a sense of community among individualistic farmers and planters increasingly involved in a market economy.49

When the preacher had finished his sermon on a hot August evening in 1855, the backwoods Baptist congregation of Parkerson's Meeting House in Pulaski County stood ready to accept new members. The church's clerk recorded what transpired next: “After sermon by Brother Baker doors were opened for reception of members by experience. Came Sister Rebecca Wright and Sabra Cadwell, and were received; also came Abel T. Wright and was received by experience.” During a three-day revival held just a month before, six more new brothers and sisters had been received into the church family. They were not alone. By 1860 about fifty log and frame church houses were (p.35) scattered across the lower river landscape. To characterize this region as an evangelical society, however, would be an exaggeration. Church members probably accounted for no more than one-third of the adult white population. Moreover, these “good citizens” split into warring missionary and anti-missionary camps, a theological rift that reflected deeper economic and social divisions among the country people.50

Unlike the surrounding black belts where Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations were common, churches in the lower Ocmulgee were exclusively Baptist, Methodist, or Primitive Baptist in 1860. Although evangelical Baptist and Methodist churches are often associated with poor whites and slaves, the largest and wealthiest local congregations belonged to these faiths. According to one estimate, in the 1840s Primitive Baptists accounted for almost half of all churched people in wiregrass Georgia, compared to about a quarter each for Baptists and Methodists. These congregations often had fewer than fifty members. Yet they were the area's most inclusive social institutions, allowing both men and women, black and white, free and slave, poor and rich to walk through the open door of fellowship.51

Sabra Cadwell's family was typical of the households that gathered at white belt meetinghouses. Husband James and sons Martin and Thomas were farm laborers. Eight children fifteen years of age or younger lived with them. They were independent, hardworking corn and hog farmers who attempted to reach self-sufficiency using the white labor in their household. When Sabra's neighbor Rebecca Wright walked down the aisle to join the church followed by her husband Abel, a slaveholding farmer, the occasion reflected the significant role women played in evangelicalism.52

Indeed, by the mid-1850S women accounted for about 70 percent of Par-kerson's Baptist members. Among Primitive Baptists, however, neargender equality existed in some congregations. At New Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Wilcox County, women represented 51 percent of the membership in 1842, and at Young's Meeting House in Irwin County women accounted for 48 percent between 1836 and 1843. Though women often outnumbered men, white males ruled church life in the same manner in which they were the earthly governors of dependent women, children, and slaves in their households. Church elders were men charged with maintaining church discipline, thus finding in church governance the legitimization of their household authority.53 And just as women outnumbered men but found them ruling churches, so too did slaveless plain folk outnumber slaveowners but nonetheless repeatedly elected them to positions of congregational authority. This was true among (p.36) Primitive Baptist churches in both black and white belt neighborhoods. At Young's Meeting House, plain folk masters and small planters dominated the congregation. George, Jacob, and James Paulk, brothers in the familial and spiritual sense, served repeatedly as clerks and deacons, one taking up the mantle of leadership where the other left off. By 1860 George owned eight slaves, and Jacob and James were small planters. Members of their extended family intermarried extensively with plain folk and other slaveholders, as well as with the family of the Reverend Richard Tucker, a prominent Primitive Baptist leader. At New Hope Primitive Baptist Church, planter George Reid served as clerk almost constantly after 1842 and was ordained deacon in 1851.54

In wiregrass Georgia, Primitive Baptist congregations stood at the social center of their neighborhoods rather than at the margins, as was often the case of Primitives in plantation districts. As the dominant congregations, piney woods Primitive Baptists formed a major barrier to the efforts of evangelical black belt Baptists and Methodists to cooperatively transform antebellum society into a civil society by restraining self-serving individualism through such benevolent works as missions, Sunday schools, Masonic lodges, and temperance. Simply put, Primitive Baptists were highly individualistic and opposed benevolence. Calvinistic in outlook, they believed strongly in election, predestination, and people's inability to reform themselves. Unlike regular Baptists and Methodists, Primitive congregations such as the one at Young's Meeting House agreed in 1840 to “shut the doors against all preachers who are in favor of the institution of the day called benevolence.”55

The Primitive Baptist faith was perfectly suited to white belt egalitarianism, localism, and self-sufficiency. The working farmers in Primitive Baptist congregations believed that each household was responsible for its dependents. “Good economy and industry are honorable traits of the Christian character,” church elders reminded their charges in 1847. Indebtedness was frowned upon. In contrast to black belt Baptist and Methodist congregations where planter families filled some pews and the “ruffles and furbelows and feathers of fashionable ladies” were noticeable, plain folk in the backwoods were “nearly all dressed in homespun” and sat on “benches without backs.” Comparatively few of their members were slaves. Their ministers were preacher-farmers who worked their own land and had no formal training. In fact, Primitives were suspicious of the better-educated evangelical clergy; “their preachers should not be such as are graduated in a theological seminary, which promote self-aggrandizement and the friendship of the world, which is enmity with God.”56 By 1860 the Primitive Baptists were surrounded by black belt evangelicals (p.37) who considered Primitive theology and practice outdated and useless. Simon Peter Richardson, a local Methodist circuit rider, maintained that Primitives “preached … a gospel that had no moral effect upon the lives of the people.” In sharp contrast to the humble Primitive buildings, white frame Greek Revival churches such as Longstreet's Evergreen Baptist rose in plantation districts and down the river valley. Seated in their pews were mission-minded wealthy planters like George Walker III. His riches, which in 1860 included one hundred slaves, were greater than the combined wealth of all households that gathered in the backwoods church at Parkerson's.57

For Christian gentlemen such as Walker, slaveholding carried with it responsibility for the moral character of their human property. Writing to the Christian Index in 1855, “Observer” reminded planters and yeoman masters alike that slave ownership created a “multiplicity of … new relationships.” Among those was the master's accountability to God for his physical treatment of the slaves he governed, as well as their spiritual development. Some slaveholders took this charge seriously. Planter James Lathrop sent his slaves in a two-horse wagon to Blue Spring Church, where they sat in the back of the room. “When th' preacher got through preachin ter th' white fokes they'd leave an then he'd preach ter us,” a black member of the congregation recalled. At Hawkinsville, domestic servants like Caroline Malloy occupied a “gallery especially built for the slaves and every Sunday found each place filled.” The white preacher, another slave recollected, “baptized us just like he did the others.” In some black belt congregations slaves outnumbered whites; at churches such as Evergreen Baptist the slaves in the gallery outnumbered all the plain folk at backwoods churches like Brushy Creek Primitive Baptist in Irwin County.58

Just as planters feared the bumptious irreverence and intemperance of plain folk at election time, yeomen were suspicious of the status of slaves in evangelical congregations. Primitives did not theologically object to slave membership—both Peggy and Tom joined Young's Meeting House in 1839. What worried them was the size of the African American congregations in black belt neighborhoods and the commitment to spiritual equality and salvation that evangelical leaders espoused starting in the 1830s. Since Primitive Baptist theology held that God's elect were numbered and chosen before the beginning of the earth, it considered the expansive nature of evangelicalism to be the theologically unsound workings of reform-minded meddlers hungry for “the friendship of the world.”59

As long as evangelicalism remained in the cotton belt, local Primitive Baptists (p.38) were less concerned with the message of deliverance and spiritual liberation that Baptists and Methodists brought to their black and white members. In 1843, however, wealthy lower river planters, including William Fussell and brothers Woodson and James L. Willcox, established a Methodist camp-ground named in honor of Simon Peter Richardson, the circuit rider who questioned the legitimacy of Primitive Baptist theology. Richardson Methodist Episcopal Camp Ground was situated in the Spalding neighborhood, where it not only met the needs of the area's many slaves but also could attract plain folk from the adjoining white belt neighborhoods. It was a symbol of growing planter influence and expansive evangelism that threatened plain folk notions of social hierarchy and order. Writing in February 1861 of the need for missionaries in Georgia's piney woods, an evangelical minister noted that he was spending “most of my time in preaching to the destitute churches of lower Georgia … the most destitute region I know of.”60

There were troubling signs that not all black belt masters were as concerned with their slaves' well-being as planters like Woodson and James Willcox. Among the “dreadful” consequences of slave mismanagement was inadequate supervision. Slaves with appetites beyond their weekly rations “will provide for themselves at the expense of a neighbor,” warned “Observer,” by stealing from nearby plantations and plain folk farms. Moreover, some slaves were left to their own devices on the Sabbath and congregated in large numbers, a specter that caused concern among plain folk accustomed to slaves in small numbers, and then mostly women and children. An incident in 1858 at Hawkinsville highlighted their concerns. The proprietor of a “floating grocery” sold a large quantity of “Professor Degrath's Electric Oil” to much of the “colored portion of the community.” Gathered on the banks of the Ocmulgee River on Sunday, the slaves consumed the prescription, which quickly made “their locomotion exceedingly ungraceful.” The grocer, who claimed to be a descendant of Virginian John Smith, was charged with selling liquor to slaves on Sunday and hauled into court. Remarkably, he was found not guilty by a jury convinced by an able defense attorney that there was reasonable doubt as to whether the bottles were filled with molasses or whiskey. Incredulous, the judge thanked the jury but warned that more verdicts like this one would “ruin the country.” The itinerant peddler paid his lawyer and left town “under strong indications that Judge Lynch was about to open his tribunal.” The incident revealed to plain folk a disturbing degree of agency among slaves, who not only earned money by raising crops in slave gardens or as skilled workers, but were free to gather and spend it on “red eye” so powerful that if (p.39) an intoxicated man “were to fall into the water after drinking it, he would be dangerous food for the fish.”61

Like increasing cotton production, slaveholding, and evangelicalism, railroad construction was another antebellum trend that threatened to make the wiregrass country more similar to the black belts surrounding it and in the process destabilize backwoods neighborhoods. Railroad construction pitted the interests of outsiders such as cotton planters and merchants against those of plain folk, who while increasingly involved in the market were determined to embrace it on their own terms. The construction of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad, which reached John Coley's farm on the eve of the Civil War, reflected local support for railroads by market-oriented citizens who saw the line as one of the building blocks of civil society. In 1857 a letter to the Georgia Weekly Telegraph noted: “There are many planters on your line of Road whose interest will be to aid in the construction of it, and as they are always alive to their interests, therefore, a liberal subscription may be expected from them.” George Walker of Longstreet led this movement in eastern Pulaski County. He bought shares of the company's stock and joined its board of directors.62

To white belt plain folk, Walker, who owned almost $100,000 in land and slaves, embodied planter wealth, evangelicalism, large slaveholding, and greater market access that could undermine their neighborhoods. Among the Jacksonian-minded yeomanry, railroads were at best a mixed blessing and at worst a threat to economic independence and self-sufficiency. Like the yeomanry of Upcountry Georgia, many plain folk feared that railroads would chop up the countryside, kill livestock, start range fires, and give private corporations an unfair advantage over individual landowners. Moreover, white belt small farmers and livestock men were mindful that wherever railroads penetrated the forest, cotton farming, fence building, slaveholding, and timber cutting followed. Thus, railroads, with their power to construct civil society, also possessed the power to destabilize rangeland. As the value of real estate escalated, common ranges became fenced agricultural acreage, and railroad rights-of-way restricted the common rights of grazing and gleaning.63

The Macon and Brunwick Railroad was not the plain folk's first such experience. The idea of creating a route from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico by building a canal or railroad between the Ocmulgee and Flint Rivers was floated by Thomas Spalding of Sapelo Island as early as 1827, when he received a charter “to cut a canal or construct a railroad of wood.” Although little work was actually accomplished by Spalding, the General Assembly extended the Ocmulgee and Flint Railroad or Canal Company's charter throughout the (p.40) antebellum period. Finally, under the direction of Abott Hall Brisbane, a South Carolina engineer, actual work on a horse-drawn wooden railway began in the early 1840s.64

Brisbane pulled together backers for the route to Albany, including $300,000 from “our slave-holding subscribers.” But when the bottom dropped out of the cotton market in 1841 “the planters … ceased payment on railroad stock,” Brisbane later complained. Desperate for laborers and with little working capital left, Brisbane, previously an engineer on the Western and Atlantic Rail-road project, convinced unemployed Irish railroad workers there to “undertake with the company for stock” in lieu of wages. The Irish hands agreed, but only if Bishop England of the Roman Catholic Charleston Diocese, which included southern Georgia, paternalistically guaranteed “the value of the stock and validity of the Company.” England gave his blessing to the project “on the condition that a white man should be provided, with his free labour, for every black man who should be furnished by his master in place of the installments which he owed on his stock.” Thus, a railroad project funded by black belt planters, blessed by a Catholic bishop, and characterized by a racially mixed workforce began to cut a pathway through the piney woods.65

For two years Brisbane pushed the line through the forest “in handsome style” using one hundred Irishmen and one hundred enslaved African Americans. Soon he and the Irish workers announced that they planned “to locate ourselves for life” along the railway in a colonization scheme. Meanwhile, a rumor circulated among the white workers, one Brisbane credited to a competing railroad plotting to buy out the project “for a song,” that the Irishmen would lose everything in an impending sale of the company. A “general row” among the disillusioned Irish workers followed, all work was suspended, and the railroad failed. In a report written in 1849 Brisbane blamed external forces for the railroad's failure, including low cotton prices, the withdrawal of planter support, and the enmity of Savannah, which feared that the line would drain away interior farm and plantation produce to the Gulf of Mexico. Only in passing did he admit that plain folk attitudes toward the railroad played a role in its failure, noting that the “great majority despise the idea of having settlers encroach upon them.”66

Brisbane's project threatened plain folk notions of a moral economy in several ways, including their views on private property, localist identity, race, and social order. The Ocmulgee and Flint Railroad was granted an exclusive “right or privilege” to railroad or canal building within twenty-five miles (p.41) above or below the railway line, opening up right-of-way controversies that plagued the company. Disputes between landowners and the railroad over the value of land “necessary for constructing and completing the said railroad or canal” resulted in an appraisal that was subject to appeal but ultimately had to be accepted by the property owners, most of them plain folk. Refusal to sell land to the railroad was not an option. For plain folk accustomed to their own ideas of dominion over their estates, such powers of corporate eminent domain were alien and threatening. Brisbane, ever the promoter, believed that the “sectional jealousy of the American States is beginning to exhibit itself on the score of comparative wealth” and that the Souths commercial interests would be compelled by “jealousy” to “spare no expense to eclipse” the North in the race for wealth. Dixie's chance of success in this race “turns on the raw staple of cotton.” The Ocmulgee and Flint Railroad was one way to efficiently move cotton to the coast and realize the planting elites vision of the ante-bellum South.67

But there were limits to what the plain folk were willing to sacrifice in the name of “sectional jealousy.” Although they participated more and more in cotton growing and slaveholding, small farmers in the white belt were unwilling to jeopardize their self-sufficiency and the stability of their neighborhoods for the economic interests of planters. In other words, they were unwilling to abandon their identity as plain folk and be subsumed by a larger cotton South. Moreover, racism and nativism joined their distrust of large planters, corporations, and the people who owned them. Irwin County was among the whitest and poorest of the white belt's counties. The one hundred or so adult male slaves employed by the railroad were equivalent to almost 40 percent of the county's entire slave population in 1840, a majority of whom were women and children. Such a large number of male field hands, many of them from outside the lower river region, seemed to imperil public safety and social control. The same could be said of the Irish Catholic workers, most of whom arrived in the United States during the 1830s and were not citizens. Virtually penniless, they worked for rations and shares in the railroad. White men, they nonetheless performed slave work. Such “Irish niggers” now announced plans to settle permanently along the railway. Intermarriage between the Irish men and local women was taking place as well, Brisbane reporting that “some five or six of our best young Irishmen” married locally. Further, as most of the Irish workers became naturalized citizens in 1841 and 1842, they gained the ballot, creating potential for a foreign-born Catholic voting bloc in a largely (p.42) Georgia-born Protestant population. When the railroad scheme failed, the Irish workers turned their anger and frustration on company officials in an action that could be described as a labor riot.68

Even before the railroad was completed, then, it destabilized the traditional white belt neighborhoods it crossed. Competition for land, deforestation, range fires, real estate speculation—all of these could be expected in the future, but the present was frightening enough for plain folk. The railroad's right of eminent domain, its foreign workers, its “labor riot,” its potential to damage self-sufficiency and economic independence were enough to make “the great majority” of local whites “[throw] their weight in the scale against it.” According to one account, the plain folk “were so much opposed to the road passing through their premises … [that] the laborers were met with sticks and staves … and dire threats of vengeance were made against them by the people.” Such violence and warnings marked the degree to which plain folk were unwilling to accept expanding commercialism in the name of the plantation South at the expense of their own notions of economic liberty and the “good republic.” Many were ready to embrace the market economy but on their own terms, growing cotton or some other marketable crop after meeting their household's self-sufficiency. Few were willing to hand over their rural neighborhoods—the source of their family's livelihood—to corporations owned by outsiders and operated for the benefit of black belt planters and merchants.69

Such was the lower river's economic and social landscape in 1860. Seventy percent of the white belt's inhabitants were nonslaveholding plain folk, the farmers and livestock herders whom Governor Joe Brown described as Georgia's “producing classes.” As the antebellum era drew to a close, this white world was surrounded by a black belt devoted to cotton and rice production and dependent on slave labor. In the wiregrass country, whites outnumbered blacks three to one; along its borders enslaved African Americans formed black majorities. The cotton and slaveholding frontier continued to eat away at the white belt's borderlands, and railroad schemes such as Brisbane's and the Macon and Brunswick threatened to split it open. For people who abhorred being “encroached upon by settlement,” plain folk found the late antebellum period one of economic change and growing anxiety in their own corner of an increasingly insecure South.70

Yet the plain folk had a hand in the growing commercialization. In wire-grass Georgia during the 1850s the average improved acreage and the number of slaves per farm increased, while the number of cotton bales per farm (p.43) doubled. By 1860 civic-minded merchants and cotton planters had transformed Hawkinsville from two rows of dilapidated buildings into an enter-prising interior cotton market with a railroad on the way. Planters were not the only people who understood that cotton and slavery were a means to wealth. Plain folk along the lower Ocmulgee were fully in step with their well-heeled neighbors. The antebellum landscape reflected an economy still in transition: from one composed of households and neighborhoods heavily involved in the market for cotton to those only marginally involved. In the process, plain folk made the lower river more like the surrounding black belts and blurred their own regional identity, but refused to surrender it. John Whaley saw it coming and left the area. The Indian frontier of his childhood had become the cotton frontier. Stereotypical descriptions of the lower river as a barren wasteland of poor white squatters and cow drovers were no longer accurate, if they ever were. But in 1860 the plain folk had not yet redefined themselves or their changing region within the larger South.71 (p.44)


(1) Dispatch, February 16, 1871, May 14, 1874.

(2) Bartram, Travels, 363; Ethridge, Creek Country, 28, 33–34, 209, 222, 236; U.S. Department of the Interior, Cotton Production, 46–50; Dispatch, February 16, 1871, May 14, 1874. On frontier society along the upper Ocmulgee River, see Reidy, From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism, chap. 1.

(3) U.S. War Department, “Survey of the Ocmulgee River,” 25–29; Morning News, March 10, 1860; John Malloy to “Dear Brother,” February 9, 1843, Duncan Malloy Papers, SHC.

(4) J. William Harris, Plain Folk and Gentry, 6–7; Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 21; Hahn, Southern Populism, 10, 50; Owsley, Plain Folk, 134–35; Freehling, South vs. the South, 20–23; Ash, When the Yankees Came, 2–4; Savannah Republican, June 18, 1861.

(5) U.S. Bureau of Soils, Survey of Dodge County, 233; Bartram, Travels, 68, 307; Freehling, South vs. the South, 19–21.

(6) Kenzer, Kinship and Neighborhood, 10–11; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:72–73, 86.

(7) Dearborn to “My dear Children,” October 22, 1836, JPL; Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 26; Cobb, Dodge County, 216; McWhiney, Cracker Culture, 51–52; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 72–73, and Agriculture, 226–27. For a description of the “lower” counties, see “A Ramble in the Low Country,” Dispatch, April 5, 1873.

(8) Harper, “Agriculture in Lower Georgia,” 115; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:72–73; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 72–73; Reidy, From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism, 20–21; Brunswick Advertiser and Appeal, September 26, 1885.

(9) U.S. Census Office, Ninth Census, Population, 349, and Eighth Census, Agriculture, 196; Clements, Irwin County, 193; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:560; Owsley, Plain Folk, 154–57; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 11, MC; Harper, “Agriculture in Lower Georgia,” 115.

(10) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Population Schedule, 20, and Agriculture Schedule, 67, MC.

(11) Faust, Mothers of Invention, 31–32; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 81–85; Dearborn to “My dear Children,” October 22, 1836, JPL.

(12) Recorder, October 28, 1862; Dispatch, December 19, 1878; Hilliard, Hog Meat, 98–99, 137–38, 150–58; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Agriculture Schedule, 73, and Pulaski County Agriculture Schedule, 17, MC; Statistics of the United States in 1860, 4:341; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 26–27; Herring, Saturday Night Sketches, 58–64; “Appraisement of the Estate of Henry Bohannon Late of Pulaski County, Decs'd,” in “Inventory, Appraisals, and Sales, 1851 to 1858,” Pulaski County, 149–52, and “Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Thully Williamson, Deceased,” Office of Probate Judge, Pulaski County, 254–57, Probate Records, PCC.

(13) Ash, When the Yankees Came, 3–5; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 26–27, and Population, 72–73; U.S. Department of the Interior, Cotton Production, 50 (quotation). For a similar situation in Augusta's hinterland, see J. William Harris, Plain Folk and Gentry, 31–32. The 1859 corn production-consumption ratios—with 1.00 meeting self-sufficiency—were Pulaski, 1.72; Telfair, 1.07; and Wilcox 0.92. For determining self-sufficiency in corn, see Hilliard, Hog Meat, 158.

(14) Dearborn to “My dear Children,” October 22, 1836, JPL (first quotation); U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Irwin County Agriculture Schedule, 7–8, MC; Dispatch, August 2, September 6, 1877, November 14, 21, 1878; AS 3(1):239 (second quotation, Martha Everette), 221 (Arthur Colson); Herring, Saturday Night Sketches, 35–38; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 29; Hilliard, Hog Meat, 61.

(15) Julia Floyd Smith, Slavery and Rice Culture, 36–38; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census … Appendix, 379, and Eighth Census, Agriculture, 23–27; Dearborn to “My dear Children,” October 22, 1836, JPL.

(16) White, Statistics, 540; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 1, 11–12, 21, Wilcox County Agriculture Schedule, 1, and Pulaski County Agriculture Schedule, 15, MC; Dispatch, June 3, 1875; Hilliard, Hog Meat, 39, 50–51; Ward, Coffee County, 40–60; McRae and McMillan Store Ledger, 1854–56, 4, 12, Laurens County Historical Society. See also McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 65–66, and Joyner, Down by the Riverside, 96–97. George Walker's plantation at Longstreet produced four hundred bushels of wheat in 1859, and many upriver yeomen grew small crops of the grain.

(17) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Agriculture Schedule, 73, MC; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 196; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 63–65. On increasing yeoman involvement in cotton production on Georgia's piedmont in the 1850s, see J. William Harris, Plain Folk and Gentry, 31–32; Bond, “Herders, Farmers,” 86–99; and Bryant, How Curious a Land, 19–20.

(18) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Wilcox County Agriculture Schedule, 9, and Pulaski County Agriculture Schedule, 17, MC; Nathaniel Gibbs to “Dear Wife,” March 25, 1863, UGA. For plantation belt comparisons, see J. William Harris, Plain Folk and Gentry, 31–32.

(19) Pulaski Times, quoted in Union Recorder, October 5, 1858; U.S. Department of the Interior, Cotton Production, 48–50.

(20) U.S. Department of the Interior, Cotton Production, 48–50; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Wilcox County Agriculture Schedule, 3, MC. David Williams (Rich Man's War, 7) minimizes the significance of yeoman involvement in cotton production and slaveholding in a more fertile region of Georgia. Of the Chattahoochee Valley, he notes: “Only the (p.311) planters … and their families benefited significantly from an economic system based on cotton and slavery.”

(21) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Slave Schedule, 56, and Agriculture Schedule, 71, MC; Hall, Travels, 3:279; AS 4(2):503 (Easter Reed).

(22) U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Slave Schedule, 2, MC; Hundley, Social Relations, 195–98; Ward, Coffee County, 76 (Hargraves). For a glimpse of a yeoman master and a cotton farmer and the scarcity of manuscript sources documenting their lives, see J. William Harris, “Portrait of a Small Slaveholder.”

(23) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Irwin County Agriculture Schedule, 7–9, Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 11, and Pulaski County Agriculture Schedule, 17, MC; Clements, Irwin County, 194; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 72. On the sex and age of yeoman slaveholders, see McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 48–51.

(24) Kolchin, American Slavery, 180–81; Clements, Irwin County, 515–16; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Slave Schedule, 2, MC; Hahn, Southern Populism, 89–90. Although the percentage of slaveowning households along the lower river was slightly more than that for the South generally in 1860 (26 percent), it was well below the 56 percent found on the cotton belt in Greene County, Ga. See Bryant, How Curious a Land, 23.

(25) Cobb, Dodge County, 216; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27; John Malloy to “Dear Brother,” February 9, 1843, Duncan Malloy Papers, SHC. For a description of celebrations like the Fourth of July, see AS 3(1):238 (Martha Everette).

(26) U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Statistics, 4:298, 341; John Malloy to “Dear Brother,” February 9, 1843, Duncan Malloy Papers, SHC.

(27) C. M. Bozeman to Mr. Butts, August 19, 1830, File II, box 15, GDAH; Reidy, From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism, 31–35; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:72–73, 2:1006–27; U.S. Department of the Interior, Cotton Production, 41; Sherwood, Gazetteer, 194; U.S. Census Office, Ninth Census, 1:349–50.

(28) For the wealth of Manning's household, see the will of Harriette J. Manning, Will Book B, 113–15, and Tax Digest, 1857, entry for “S. M. Manning,” both in Pulaski County Superior Court, PCC; DAR-H, History of Pulaski County, 441; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Pulaski County Slave Schedule, 10, and Agriculture Schedule, 15, MC.

(29) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Pulaski County Agriculture Schedule, 15, and Slave Schedule, 37–44, MC; Hahn, Southern Populism, 45–49; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:264; Bryant, How Curious a Land, 22–25.

(30) John Malloy to “Dear Brother,” February 9, 1843, Duncan Malloy Papers, SHC; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Slave Schedule, 3–7, and Agriculture Schedule, 1–3, MC.

(31) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 1. and Slave Schedule, 3–7, MC; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 72, and Ninth Census, Population, 101; Bryant, How Curious a Land, 24.

(32) Bartley, Modern Georgia, 16–21; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Agriculture Schedule, 5, 9, MC; Julia Floyd Smith, Slavery and Rice Culture, 6–7.

(33) Harper, “Agriculture in Lower Georgia,” 115; McWhiney, Cracker Culture, 51–79; (p.312) Owsley, Plain Folk, 44–45, 157; Richardson, Lights and Shadows, 26 (circuit rider); U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 26–27. On Indian use of the range, see Ethridge, Creek Country, 162–66.

(34) Dispatch, June 21, 1877 (quotation); Hahn, Southern Populism, 60–63; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 1, MC; Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, 48–49.

(35) U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 27; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Coffee County Agriculture Schedule, 1, MC; McRae and McMillan Store Ledger, 1854–55, 10–11, 163, Laurens County Historical Society; J. C. Wilkes, “Wilkes Family Recollections,” 5, GDAH.

(36) Hahn, Southern Populism, 59–53; Georgia Acts, 1855–56, 411–12 (quotation), 1859, 297, 1860, 164, 1866, 39; Schama, Landscape and Memory, 139.

(37) J. C. Wilkes, “Wilkes Family Recollections,” 7, GDAH; Ward, Coffee County, 316–17; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Wilcox County Population Schedule, 5, and Telfair County Population Schedule, 1, MC; Recorder, July 12, 1853; Georgia Acts, 1857, 250; John G. Muan to W. W. Paine, February 8, 1856, box 2, folder 25, Paine Papers, GHS.

(38) DAR-H, History of Pulaski County, 432–33; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:259; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27.

(39) Kolchin, American Slavery, 96; Bailum Sparrow to L. Lieberman, April 11, 1868, BRFAL; Dispatch, June 21, 1877. For slave “speculators” in Bibb County, see the statement of Alice Battle in AS 3(1):39.

(40) Kolchin, American Slavery, 103–4. U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27; Blassingame, Slave Community, 259–60; Reidy, From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism, 36–37. In AS 4(2), see the statements of Sarah Nance (71), Sarah Virgil (626), and Easter Reed (526).

(41) AS 3(1):219 (Arthur Colson); “Inventory and Appraisal of the Estate of Thully Williamson,” 254–57, Office of Probate Judge Pulaski County, Probate Records, PCC; Clements, Irwin County, 193; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 68–69.

(42) U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Population, 66–68; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 48–51; U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Irwin County Slave Schedule, 1, and Agriculture Schedule, 1, MC.

(43) Statistics of the United States in 1860, 4:341; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census, Agriculture, 226–27; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 2:1006–27; “Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Isaac Johnson, Deceased,” 364–65, Office of Probate Judge, Pulaski County, Probate Records, PCC. David Williams (Rich Man's War, 7) dismisses the unifying potential of small slaveholding.

(44) Ash, When the Yankees Came, 2–7; CRSG 2:121 (Brown).

(45) McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 6–8; Minutes of the Primitive Baptist Pulaski Association, … 1847, 5–6; Rose, Victorian America, 70–71.

(46) McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 58–61, 86–88; Minutes of the Primitive Baptist Pulaski Association, … 1847, 6.

(47) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Population Schedule, 23, MC; Rable, Civil Wars, 1–2; Ash, When the Yankees Came, 86–88; Rose, Victorian America, 70–71.

(48) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Telfair County Slave Schedule, 49–59, MC; Charlotte E. Taylor to “My Beloved Husband,” April 13, 1849, in Stevens, Family Letters, 219; Clinton, Plantation Mistress, 18, 29–33. For a transcription of Daniel's will, see Cobb, Dodge County, 216–17.

(49) Ash, When the Yankees Came, 4–6; Hubbs, Guarding Greensboro, 25–27.

(50) Cobb, Dodge County, 183–85 (transcript of Parkerson's church minutes and its 1855 membership roll); Statistics of the United States in 1860, 4:365–70; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Culture, 106–13; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 159; Clements, Irwin County, 75; Crowley, Primitive Baptists, 19.

(51) Statistics of the United States in 1860, 4:365–70; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 140, 146; Chalker, Pioneer Days, 58–59, 63–64; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:365, 2:1019–20; Richardson, Lights and Shadows, 9–10, 26–27; Crowley, Primitive Baptists, 19.

(52) U.S. Census, Ga., 1850, Pulaski County Population Schedule, 246–48, and 1860 Agriculture Schedule, 17, MC; Joiner, Pioneer Families, 1:2–3.

(53) Cobb, Dodge County, 184–85; Clements, Irwin County, 454–57, 466–69, 510; Bode, “A Common Sphere,” 775–809. The best discussion of plain folk in such congregations in the Deep South is McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, chap. 5.

(54) U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Irwin County Slave Schedule, 1–4, MC. For church membership lists, see Clements, Irwin County, 456–57, 466–69, 510.

(55) Clements, Irwin County, 468; Crowley, Primitive Baptists, 58, 65–67; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Culture, 114–15.

(56) Minutes of the Primitive Baptist Pulaski Association, … 1847, 6; Wyatt-Brown, “Antimission Movement,” 502–3, and Southern Culture, 116–17; George G. Smith, History of Georgia Methodism, 264 (second quotation); Richardson, Lights and Shadows, 26–27 (third quotation); Bode, “Evangelical Communities in Middle Georgia,” 711–48; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 454–55. See also “Circular Letter” in Primitive Pulaski Association, 1872, 1.

(57) Richardson, Lights and Shadows, 10. For Walker's wealth, see Pulaski County Superior Court, Tax Digest, 1857, PCC, and U.S. Census, 1860, Ga., Pulaski County Population Schedule, 82, and Slave Schedule, 39–40, MC.

(58) Christian Index, April 26, 1855; AS 3(1):238 (Martha Everette), 4(1):412 (Caroline Malloy), 4(1):505 (Reed); Clements, Irwin County, 466–68; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:365.

(59) Clements, Irwin County, 466–67; Primitive Pulaski Association, 1872, 1; Crowley, Primitive Baptists, 58, 65–67.

(60) Clements, Irwin County, 485; McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, 136–47; Crowley, Primitive Baptists, 58, 65–67; Christian Index, February 20, 1861 (quotation).

(61) Christian Index, April 26, 1855; “Pulaski” to Editor, Messenger, April 28, 1858.

(62) Messenger, February 9, 1859; Wallace Leigh Harris, Pulaski and Bleckley Counties, 1:275 (quotation); R. G. Dun and Co., GA26, 137, Harvard University; Hubbs, Guarding Greensboro, 25–30.

(63) Hahn, Southern Populism, 34–39; Thompson, “Moral Economy,” 90–93; Wetherington, New South, 50; Hubbs, Guarding Greensboro, 25–30.

(64) Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 21–22; Clements, Irwin County, 415–19.

(65) Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 22–25.

(66) Ibid., 22–25, 27; Clements, Irwin County, 415–19.

(67) Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 28–29.

(68) Ibid., 24–27; Clements, Irwin County, 24–27, 417–18.

(69) Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 24–27 (first quotation); Clements, Irwin County, 415–19; “Old Brisbane Road,” in Valdosta Times, October 19, 1895 (second quotation); Hahn, Southern Populism, 34–37.

(70) CRSG 3:429; Brisbane, “Detailed Report,” 26; Savannah Republican, June 18, 1861; Harper, “Agriculture in Lower Georgia,” 109–14; U.S. Census Office, Ninth Census, Population by Counties, 22; Kennett, Marching through Georgia, 35–36.

(71) Harper, “Agriculture in Lower Georgia,” 111–15. See also “Visit to Hawkinsville,” in Messenger, April 25, 1860.