Let the ancestors talk….

Ham and Bacon Hanging in the Smokehouse
Ham and Bacon Hanging in the Smokehouse

Charley Williams, WPA “Slave Narratives,”


“De plantations was about as big as any.  I think it had about three hundred acres, and it was about two miles northwest of Monroe, Louisiana. …Old Master come into that country when he was a young man and they didn’t have even so much then as they had when I was a boy.  I think he come from Alabama or Tennessee, and way back his people had come from Virginia or maybe North Carolina, ’cause he knowed all about tobacco on the place.  Cotton and tobacco was de long crops on his place, and of course, lots of hosses and cattle and mules.


When de day begin to crack, de whole plantation break out wid al kinds of noises, and you could tell what going on by de kind of noise you hear.

Guineas---African Birds in the Lowcountry
Guineas—African Birds in the South

Come de daybreak you hear de guinea fowls start potracking down to de edge of de wod lot, and den de roosters all start up round de barn, and de ducks finally wake up and jine in.

The Poultry Yard
The Poultry Yard

You can smell de sowbelly brying down at de cabins in de row to go wid de hoecake and de buttermilk.

Den purty soon de wind rise a little, and you can hear a old bell donging ‘way on some plantation a mile or two off, and den more bells at other places, and maybe a horn, and purty soon yonder go Old Master’s old ram horn wid a long toot and den some short toots and here come de overseer down de row of cabins , hollering right and left, and picking de ham out’n his teeth wid a long shiny goose quill pick.


Bells and horns! Bells for dis and horns for dat! All we knowed was go and come by de bells and horns!



1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal


3/4 cup of boiling hot water


½ teaspoon of salt


¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil, bacon grease or shortening


Mix the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.  Add the boiling water, stir constantly and mix it well and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes.  Melt the frying fat in the skillet and get it hot, but do not allow it to reach smoking. Two tablespoons of batter can be scooped up to make a hoecake.  Form it into a small thin pancake and add to the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes until firm and lightly brown.  Set on paper towels to drain and serve immediately once all the hoecakes have been cooked. Serve with cane syrup, light molasses or sorghum syrup.  Optional: enjoy with buttermilk and bacon.

6 comments on “Morning on a Plantation Before the Civil War

  1. Love your posts, I always learn something and have great food – especially for thought.


  2. What a wonderfully evocative post! I got such a clear image of the early morning on that plantation. Roosters, bells, and horns!


  3. Thank you for this.


  4. Pingback: Morning on a Plantation | Dolphin

  5. 2 miles northwest of Monroe, Louisiana? hmmm sounds like an area I must visit on my #Dancestory2013 journey to the area – being that ma folks from that way and all. 😉 ~Thank you for vivid pictures, tastes and smells…


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