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Biographies

An Old Darky's Reminiscences of St. Simons Island

Foreword

            When the causeway connecting St. Simons with the mainland was opened and automobiles began to invade roads and byways on the Island where traffic had been scarce, an old darky infirm with age sat in front of his cabin near the roadside, day after day, nodding a welcome to the people as they passed.  Stopping one day to speak to him he attempted to tell me something of St. Simons’ past, fragments of history I knew so well.  An automobile filled with boys and girls attired in bathing suits stopped near.  Their merry chatter attracted his attention, then turning his faded eyes to me he said, “None o’ dat was good raisin’ when me an’ ol’ Mis was young”.
            And so, as a souvenir of St. Simons, I am giving you his reminiscences in rhyme and in his dialect—the negro dialect of the Sea Island Country.
            His seat is empty now.  May the memory of ol’ Mis an’ ol’ Massa” comfort him until he reaches the last water’s edge and falls asleep beside the restless sea.—Bessie Wright

 Dis heah islan’ is noted
            For t’ings dat happened in de pas’;
Some o’ dem I sho’ can ‘member
            Some is so far back I can’t.
Fu’st der was ol’ Marse Oglethorpe
            Who come on a English boat
Bringin’ wide m a bunch ob peoples
            To colonize dis Georgia coas’.
‘Long de same time come John Wesley
            ‘Bout whose preachin’ we all know,
An’ his brudder Charles was de secretary
            To Gen. Oglethorpe an’ his corps.

Ders a oak tree stan’in yonder
            In Frederica’s ol’ grabe-yard
Where Marse Wesley preached de fu’st sermon
            On dis American sod.
Marse Charles was de one what writ dem hymns
            An’ sung em loud an’ bold,
De one dat I likes best Suh
            Is “Jesus ‘Lubber Ob’ My Soul”.
Wid de help ob all des gentmens
            Frederica was made a town,
An’ dey built a fo’t to keep out Spaniards
            What was ‘noyin’ em an’ goin’ roun’
Tryin’ to conquer lan’ what don’ b’longst to em,
            But dat stone on Bloody Ma’sh will sho’
How Marse Oglethorpe’s army licked em
            In dat famous fight you know.
Dey mus’ hab been a noble army
            ‘Cordin’ to dem breatworks what dey fixed,
Dey dug a trench at ol’ Frederica
            Dat was deeper’n any ditch.

Hidin’ ‘hin’ em, shootin’, lookin’,
            Dat’s de way hit had to be done;
I ain’ had no use for a Spaniard
            Since to me dat yarn was spun.
All ob dis heah doin’s happened
            Some two hund’ed years ago,
T’ink dat’s what dem chillun tol’ me,
            Figgers makes my min’ go slow.
I don’ let no figgers bodder me,
            I jes’ know dem fac’s was done,
‘Kase ol’ Missus of’en tol’ me
            Dat’s how de white folks heah begun.
Der was sump’en else dat happened
            Dat I could nebber understan’,
Why de people on dis islan’
            Talks ‘bout de name ob a man
Scratched on de window pane ob de big house
            Plain, so dat hit could show,
Cannon’s Point was de place Suh
            An’ de name was Aaron Burr.

Den Mis’ Fanny Kemble come to Summer it
            At Butler’s Point what’s hung wid moss,
I can ‘member em wid dat long skirt
            A ridin’ by on dat white hoss.
She writ a book ob letters
            ‘Bout we niggers what was slaves,
Tryin’ to turn all what read em
            ‘Ginst our massas in der grabes.
I don’ care what she say ‘bout em
            I jes’ know dis nigger saw
De bes’ time he had a libbin’
            Was de days befo’ de war.
But hit sho’ is a sight now
            To look ‘bout dis islan’ an’ see
De t’ings dat am a happenin’—
            Nuttin’ like hit use to be!
Der’s a rich man an’ some peoples
            Has come heah, don’ you see,
Wid some new fang-dangled notions
            ‘Bout what St. Simons ought to be.

Dey took a dredge an’ pumped up dirt,
            Dey built a hotel gran’
An’ dey say dem fine new golf links
            Is ‘bout de bes’ dat’s in de lan’.
Der also is a lot ob t’ings
            Which to me looks far f’om right
Der ain’ nuttin’ sets straight an’ eben
            ‘Cordin to dis ol’ man’s eyesight.
Now, in front ob dat hotel dey planted a palm tree
            An’ stead ob settin’ hit straight
Crooked hit ober a puddle ob water
            An dey say dat hit’s a lake.
An’ de roads Suh!  You nebber see’d
            De likes in all your life,
Dey is paved across dis islan’
            But to me hit don’ seem right
To be ridin’ widout de san’ to stop you
            An’ to balk you on your ways,
An’ de distance don’ seem no where
            Lak hit did in olden days.

I’se des as ‘fraid for dem rich folks
            To go ridin’ by my home,
‘Kase I know dey’ll sho’ to want hit
            An’ dey’ll offer me some gol’
Dat’ll make dem chillun’s eyes shine
            An’ dey’ll say I ought to sell,
But I’ll nebber do hit, no Suh,
            Not if I knowed ‘twas jes as well.
So when de autos go by
            An’ on de seats is dem big bugs
I don’ say nuttin’ tall Suh
            Till dey’s gone an’ der’s a lull.
Den I stops an’ tells dem chillum
            To don’ do nuttin’ to attrac’ der eyes,
‘Kase dey’ll sho’ to want dis place Suh,
            Which dey’ll not git till I dies.
To me dis place is as near Heaben
            As a place could ebber be,
An’ I’ll allus lub St. Simons,
            Dis ol’ islan’ by de sea.

 

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