Eventually, the Confederate soldiers on their way to and from camp began to stop at the house. Food and everything available was given to them. Three of Mr. Cody’s sons were killed in battle. As the Northern soldiers did not come near the home, the loss of property was practically negligible [TR: ‘—six cents being all’ marked out].
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the slaves were called to the “big house” in a group to receive the news that they were free. Both old and young danced and cheered when this information was given out. Many of the families remained there for a year or two until they were able to find desirable locations elsewhere.
Cody attributes his ability to reach a ripe old age to the excellent care he took of himself in his youth. He has used tobacco since he was a small boy and does not feel that it affects his health. Distilled liquor was plentiful in his young days and he always drank but never to an excess.
Willis Cofer, Age 78 548 Findley Street Athens, Georgia
Federal Writers’ Project
Sarah H. Hall
John N. Booth
[may 6 1938]
Willis was enjoying the warm sunshine of an April morning as he sat on his small porch. Apparently, he was pleased because someone actually wanted to hear him talk about himself. His rheumatism had been painful ever since that last bad cold had weakened him, but he felt sure the sunshine would “draw out all the kinks.” Having observed the amenities in regard to health and weather, the old man proceeded with his story:
“Eden and Calline Cofer was my pa and ma and us all lived on de big old Cofer plantation ’bout five miles from Washin’ton, Wilkes. Pa b’longed to Marse Henry Cofer and ma and us chillun wuz de property of Marse Henry’s father, Marse Joe Cofer.
“I wuz borned in 1860, and at one time I had three brudders, but Cato and John died. My oldest brudder, Ben Cofer, is still livin’ and a-preachin’ de Gospel somewhar up Nawth.
“Chilluns did have de bestes’ good times on our plantation, ’cause Old Marster didn’t ’low ’em to do no wuk ’til dey wuz 12 years old. Us jus’ frolicked and played ‘round de yard wid de white chilluns, but us sho’ did evermore have to stay in dat yard. It wuz de cook’s place to boss us when de other Niggers wuz off in de fields, and evvy time us tried to slip off, she cotch us and de way dat ’oman could burn us up wid a switch wuz a caution.
“Dere warn’t no schools for us to go to, so us jes’ played ’round. Our cook wuz all time feedin’ us. Us had bread and milk for breakfas’, and dinner wuz mos’ly peas and cornbread, den supper wuz milk and bread. Dere wuz so many chilluns dey fed us in a trough. Dey jes’ poured de peas on de chunks of cornbread what dey had crumbled in de trough, and us had to mussel ’em out. Yessum, I said mussel. De only spoons us had wuz mussel shells what us got out of de branches. A little Nigger could put peas and cornbread away mighty fast wid a mussel shell.