CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE PAST
Ewing's father Calvin is the one on the far left.
Questions or Comments?
At this writing Ewing hadn't seen the most recent site map, which is based on archaeological evidence, and we may be able to adjust that map based on his remembrances...
Two of Ewing's sisters were born on the plantation
Ewing: My sister, Gloria was born on September 10, 1917 in the house that was known as the McFarland House. It was directly east of the plantation house...there was all kinds of pecan trees there. There have always been pecan trees. And then there was a house north of there that we lived in for a while after my sister was born...After Gloria was born we moved to a house that they called "the house at the head of the field". That was the far northwest corner of the plantation....it was next to a huge wooded area. It has never been cleared there as far as I know. And there was a house there, and that creek that runs by the place there, it headed up in that direction because I remember I had a good long across that creek when the water got high.
Carol: Was that creek what some people called the "slew"? And did it wind back behind the quarters area?
Ewing: No, it ran to the left if you were facing north, facing the entrance to the plantation like we go in now....it might have run parallel to the quarters...there was an old pit, and I assume it's where they [the slaves] dug the clay to make the brick. I told Ken about it, but I'm not sure if he dug back there.
Carol: When Ken talks about the archaeology and so forth, and the way he digs and all that...what's your take on that? Does it make sense to you, having lived on the place many years ago?
Ewing: The time I came along to remember things, it was all covered up. Now, there were some brick walks around the place...when I was a little boy (Ewing was born in 1915), it was open because I remember playing on those bricks. There was a lot of brick around there. The old cisterns were brick. Both of them were up and while we lived there my Dad got some colored fellows and they cleaned that cistern out the first one the one that is all filled up now.
[there were two cisterns, and one has been filled in. The other is still there].
Ewing, continued: While we lived there, Uncle Will had a well dug. Before that they were relying on the cistern, see? They had these gutters that channeled water into the old brick system and we we left there of course, we put a cover on it so nobody could get in it...there was a brick walk that came out the front of the house. Of course, the concrete wasn't there...it was a brick walk...It came around the side and I was thinking it went on out to this place where we played...It seems like there was a little fence around the house area proper, but it had a back gate and Aunt Hester used to wash clothes beyond outside the fence, see, in the open area back there.
Sarah (his daughter): Tell us about Aunt Hester.
Ewing: Well, Aunt Hester was one of the two colored ladies that were hired. I guess they worked 'til noon Saturday and then went home. They were paid $1.00 a week, maybe, something like that, and they got their noon meal. They'd get there after Mamma had fixed breakfast and they'd get there and clean house, wash clothes, and whatever they had to do because we were stair steps. [Ewing is referring to the ages of his brothers and sisters, who were about two years apart in age]. Let's see when we left [the plantation, in 1920], I was five and Laura was three and Sarah was born in 1919. The house that's not there anymore was west of the Jordan place, and that's where I saw my first bananas. Daddy had gone to town and brought this wonderful fruit. Bananas.
Anyway, the only two black people I remember (and I left when I was five) were Aunt Hester and her helper, the one that Mamma called "Two Bits". She was a small black woman, and they were to help around the house. Doing the washing and cooking and cleaning. And we called her Aunt Hester. [We have no idea who "Two Bits" was, or where the nickname came from. If anyone knows, we'd be grateful.]
I used to talk to Aunt Hester. I was always following her around. She had a big wash pot. She did the washing, I guess, and she'd always bake sweet potatoes. Not always, but some of the time, I know she would bake potatoes. She knew just how far to keep them away from the coals, and I thought that was the best eating in the world to get some butter, you know, and sweet potatoes...and when she'd be cleaning chickens...they called me Jumbo. She'd say "Jumbo, you know what I was going to give you when I clean this chicken?". "No ma'am, Aunt Hester, I don't know. "I'm going to give you the eyeballs and feathers!"...she'd tease me...I had to mind her. If she told me to go in the house, I went in the house.
Carol: Did Aunt Hester's children ever come with her?
Ewing: I don't remember any of her children. I do remember Andrew Mack. He lived across the street he had a bunch of kids. Pete was the last one to go. The last squirreling I did down there, I went by and got Pete and we went squirreling....there was Pete, and Bartlett...I don't remember the girl's name...I think Pete's dead now. He was the last one I would have known. He was in a nursing home in Sweeny or Bay City. I asked about him when we started having the reunions and somebody told me that he had diabetes, or something like that.
Carol: What is your earliest memory of living on the plantation?
Ewing: We had moved...after my sister was born in September we moved to the house up to what they called the "head of the field", which was the far northwest corner of the plantation. This is 1917 now...sometime between the time she was born and Christmas we moved to that house and that's when I start to remember things. This is around two years of age. Uncle Will killed a bear that winter.
Carol: Is that the bear that Bruce has the pictures of?
[Bruce Gotcher, another Martin descendant, has some pictures of a bear that was killed. One day we hope to have them on this web site]
Ewing: Probably so. Well, anyhow he many have killed another one later, but he killed one that year. It was the winter of 1917 somewhere around that time. I don't know whether it was before or after Christmas but there came a snow. Of course, not a real heavy snow. Snowflakes were on the ground. Of course, the chickens always ran loose, but they were out there pecking that snow...they thought it was some kind of food to eat or something! And the wildcats were catching chickens. We had a chicken house and, of course, the chickens all went to the chicken house to roost but during the daytime they just ran free bugs and grass were apparently what they wanted to eat. But anyhow these wildcats we called them bob cats were catching the chickens so Daddy built a stick he just brought the sticks out of the woods there and he built a pen and he put an old hen in there and set steep traps all the way around the pen. Well, the next morning he had a bobcat, all right, so he got me up and took me out there to see the bob cat before he killed him, and he was a mad a cat as you can imagine! Grabbed by the steel trap which was real cruel but anyhow...
Carol: What would you like to see on the web site that isn't there now?
Ewing: What I'd like to see in my lifetime is to have some listing of the ownership in chronological order. And that would have to come from the deed records. I don't know whether Ken has located some of them, and I don't know whether Ginny [Raska] might have some, but anyhow, starting with the Spanish Land Grant to Williams and then the division of the place to the present time. And then that would give everybody an idea of where this person came in, and where that one came in...
[Ewing, we're working on it!]
Carol: Are there some things about the family history that you don't want to see on the web site?
Ewing: Not anything that I know of would be offensive in any way as far as I'm concerned. Now mainly when you finally put it together, if you say you're uncertain about this or something is not documented, or that this is one of the stories that has come down to us...
I guess if I were doing it I would try to get everything authentic and then put in the hearsay or the old wives tales or whatever as an anecdote. I think if I was a kid I'd be interested in reading that...My grandson or great-grandson, if I ever have one, on down the line, so her could get a picture from the beginning from the Spanish Land Grant .... you know, the genealogy of the land...and I've also wanted to read that diary ever since Ginny told us about it. [and Ginny gave him a copy in the summer of 1998].
Carol: Have you had a chance to read the web page that talks about why the tenants left the plantation?
Ewing: Yes, and that puzzled me. It made me think about asking Ken about dating that stuff. Now I never heard Daddy or any of them Uncle Will or Uncle Charles Well, Uncle Charles told me a lot of stories but none of them were about the plantation. It was about the Boer War and things like that.
[he then told a great story about Charles and the Boer War, which we will include some day]
Carol: So they never told you stories about the plantation? So what would your question be for Ken?
Ewing: Well, how does he know about when the slaves left, and can he date any of the stuff he found after 1865? And another thing that bugged me...why would they leave things behind that we call artifacts that would probably have had no value to the landowner?
Carol: You mean, why would Will Martin want somebody's eyeglasses?
Ewing: That's right. I've wondered about this exodus, we'll call it. When they left the plantation.
[Ken has addressed this to some degree in his written work, and it's a question he's still trying to answer. The most recent information is probably in the section of his interview on abandonment, and in a paper written by one of his student, Mary Barnes. He will try and post an answer to this on the web sometime soon].
HOME * Conversations * Words * Archaeology * History * Ethnography * Community * Media * Descendants
& others * People in the Past * Kids * Bibliography * Definitions * Links * Maps * Search * Table of
For information about this site or this project, contact or .
‹ Carol McDavid 1998