I desire to write up a brief History of our Ancestors, together with other happenings that came up during some of their natural lives, according to my father John C. Sheffield story.
About the year 1800, my Grandfather and five brothers, fled from Lee County, Georgia to escape the wrath of savages. Indians had gotten on the warpath and were murdering women, children and everybody in their pathway they could catch. According to History, they were making their way from this Country, at that time Mexico. They started out from some place in Lee County called Roanoke.
I will now give an account of how those Old heroís did. Six brothers, one of the six being my grandfather, whose name was Westley Sheffield, the others being Arthur, John, Bryant, Wright and Isham, all uneducated and suppose owned no property, yet they had determination and grit.
They all settled down in what was then called the Wiregrass Region of Georgia. I presume there were very few settlements in that part of that County, however, they all went to hard labor building homes and clearing farms. My Grandfather and two of the brothers settled on the East side of a stream called Spring Creek, while the other three settled on the West side. I suppose there were no Schools at that time and no towns, Bainbridege might have been a small town of Flint River, twenty miles from where Grandfather settled. Finally, I suppose the County and County Seat was located and a little town started up by the name of Blakely. The County Early Blakely was sixteen miles from Grandfathers home.
Wild Animals and fowls of most all description roamed over the country such as deer, turkey, bear and panthers. Anyway the old settlers went to work the soil and raise stock, hogs, cattle goats and sheep and by living hard began saving money and buying Negroes to tell the soil. It was said that old Uncle Arthur Sheffield owned two hundred slaves up to the time they were freed. Before the surrender in May 1865 at Apamatox, my grandfather had several slaves, cannot say just how many as my father did not say. The other brothers owned thousands head of cattle and other stock.
My father had some education and after Grandfather began to get old Father managed most of his business, such as seeing after the farm and overseeing the Negroes and the stock. Then my Father and Grandfather joined plantations. My father also owned several slaves himself. My Father seemed to be a favorite son of Grandfathers.
Grandfather was married four times. His first wife, Father knew but little about, only from things he had heard. They had one child, a boy, and she took the child and deserted Grandfather and they never knew what became of them. The second wifeís maiden name was Clark. She had four children, two boys and two girls, by name: Katy, Betsy, Isham and Bryant. His third wifeís name was Renfro. She had ten children, five boys and five girls, by name: John C, Samp, Arthur, Tom and the other boy died, the girls were, Rebecca, Nancy, Mary Ann, Louise and Tabitha. The fourth wife was a widow by the name of Brown. They had no children, although she had some by her first husband Brown. Some of them I knew, their names were Silas, Neal Bryan and Martin, the girls were Polly and Harriet.
My Motherís maiden name, as most all of you know was Susan Hooks and immigrated from South Carolina to Georgia. I presume about the time that the Sheffields came from Lee County Georgia. I have no recollection of my Grandfather and Grandmother Hooks, they both died, might have been dead before I was born. I do remember all my Uncles and Aunts, then of them as follows: Austin, William, James, Allen and George. Females were Susan, Rebecca, Anagane, Betsy and Charlotte.
I never did hear what nationality the Hooks were but the Sheffields were English. One of the largest Cutlery manufacturing Cities said to be in the world is Sheffield, England. This city possibly derived its name from some of the Sheffields in ancient times.
Now in conclusion I wish to make the statement in regard as to how the settlers lived at that time. After the country became more developed and after the towns of Bainbridge and Blakely were built up my Grandfather lived on the road leading from Bainbridge to Blakely on about halfway ground. People traveling from one town to the other would stop at Grandfathers to spend the night. When the meals were announced they would have to use their pocked knives to cut their food as there would be no knives and forks on the table. Their meals usually only consisted of cornbread and beef and but little if any flour to make biscuits. I can remember after I had a family we would only have biscuits on Sunday Morning. After the war in the 60ís I hauled 22 bushels of sweet potatoes twenty miles and would get only one barrel of flour for them. The above will give some idea how some of us lived later on.
Now I will go back to some of the practices of those old folks. Some of them seemed to be superstitious for they believed in ghost and witchcraft. Some were more superstitious than others, and seemed to be very determined in their illiterate way. They would have their gatherings on some appointed place, the crossroads or some other place and have what they called the shooting matches. Some party would put up a beef to be raffled off by the quarter. They would put up a target at some distance and those who died the shooting would pay so much a shot and the first nearest bullet to the bulls eye would get the first quarter and so on until the beef would all be taken up. They usually had a good lot of whiskey in bottles or jugs on the ground and maybe all or most all would get drunk, then most of the time the fun would come off. They would get up some dispute and go into a regular fist fight and the one that could knock the most of them down wore the belt. They called these fights friendly fights for they were not allowed to use knives or guns and might all make friends before leaving the ground.
Now the guns people used in those olden times were called flint and steel guns. I can remember when there was no other than the flint and steel guns or at least that is my impression. The locks were attached to the breach of those guns with an upright steel lid that covered the priming pan and the hammer was made so as to fasten a small flint rock by a crew on top of the hammer and when the gun would be loaded the little riming pan would be filled with powder and the upright steel for other covering would be pulled down so as to prevent the powder from escaping only into the gun barrel and when the gun would be cocked and the trigger pulled the flint would strike the steel land throw the sparks into the powder and fire the gun, finally the percussion lock was invented, cap and tube and the old flint and steel gun was done away with.
Now I wish to make a statement in regards to the ex-slave or Negro. Ever since I can remember, where he came from and the cause of their being in the South, most every one who has studied History know the Negro is a native of Africa. I have been told that the Negro speculators would go over to Africa in large vessels and would take with them many attractive articles in order to get the Negro on their vessel and when they would get all they wanted they would pull off from the shore and land them in the United States. Now as Negro labor was not profitable in the Northern States, speculators would bring them in bunches down South and sell them to the farmers where they were profitable in the way of raising cotton that could not be raised in the North. Those traders would have their camping outfits along and the Negroes would all or most all be driven along like cattle. The masters as they called their owners would stop near some slave owner farm and would likely sell some of the slaves, or go onto the next farm until they were all sold.
Now, I will admit some slave owners would treat their slaves cruel while others treated them very humane and those that were treated all right were better off when slaves than after being freed. They had no home and were to be pitied, however, I think their owners should have been paid for them, of which it would have cost the government less than that four yeas war. I think a great many Southern slave holders paid hard earned money for their Negroes.
I have been married three times. I married Martha Lane and came to Texas in 1867. There were eight children born to our union: Tom Rachel, Bart, Bright, Charlie, Douglas, Allen and Lucy. My wife died and later I married Susan Hutto and there were eight children born to us: Lee, Rannie, Francis, Mattie, Robert, Sue, Jennie and Peter.
Now I have written about all I am physically able to write and I will quit. Some that I have written is from hear-say and some of my own knowledge.
This is Christmas Day 1927 and I live to the 13th day of May, 1928 I will be 82 years old
Signes R.W. Sheffield
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