This article deals with the tough topic of slavery. The article itself is not written by MOGenWeb, and I do not hold the same beliefs as the original writer. I believe it to be written in the late 19th to early 20th century and I provide it here as a historical article on slavery. If I can figure out where an earlier County Coordinator found this I will properly reference it. – Dennis
In 1860 there were 3,017 slaves in Marion county – 1,406 males, 1,611 females. In 1850 the number was 2,852. The slave population was about one-fifth of the free whites. The greater number of those slaves were in Liberty and Fabius townships. In the latter, in 1850, the slaves formed one-third of the entire population. A description of slavery, as it once existed in Liberty township will suffice, therefore, for a general reference to the institution throughout the county.
Slavery in this county was transplanted from Kentucky and Virginia. Certain families owned slaves in those States, and carried them along when they came to the new country. Nearly all that were ever here came with their masters or were natives of the county. Few were ever brought here and sold on speculation. Many were taken out of the county and sold to go into the far south, but there was no profit in bringing them here for sale. Negroes are known to be prolific when surrounded by favorable circumstances, and they increased very rapidly under the workings and practices of the system. Many slave girls became mothers at fourteen.
The slave owners worked their slaves for profit. Slavery to them was not only social power and supremacy, but it was wealth and a source of wealth. The slaveholder therefore worked his slaves to the best possible advantage for gain. Men and women worked in the fields here, as they did in the cotton fields of Mississippi. They were provided with comfortable cabins, with coarse but comfortable clothing, with a sufficiency of food, and medical attendance was furnished them when they were sick. The self-interest of the master prompted this, if his humanity did not. It was rare in this county that a master overworked and underfed his slaves, or treated them with extreme harshness and cruelty.
Slaves were property and rated a part of a man’s personal estate, as his horses were. To be sure they were regarded as something more than brood mares and stallions, though their value, in a certain sense was the same- proportionate to their increase. This could not be avoided. The owner of land had a right to its annual profits, the owner of orchards to their annual fruits, and under the law the owner of female slaves was entitled to their children. While in Louisiana and perhaps another State slaves were real estate in Missouri they were chattels. Though no attention was given to their education, their religious instruction was not neglected, and they were encouraged hold meetings and to conduct revivals and prayer meetings, and in the Pauline precept, 11 Servants obey your masters,” was cited to them as one of the teachings and commands of the Bible.
The domestic relations of the slaves were regulated more with regard to convenience than what would be considered propriety in these days. Marriages between them were not made matters of record. Quite frequently no ceremony was said at all -the parties simply “took up”. Occasionally the husband belonged to one master, the wife to another. But in most instances the family relation was observed, or at least imitated. Husband and wife occupied one cabin, where they brought up children-and lived after the fashion of today. The husband and wife not only did not have to provide for themselves, but they were not expected to provide for their children. That was the master’s care and duty.
The husband was usually satisfied with one wife at a time. There was not that laxity of morals concerning the connubial relations here that existed in the far South. There were numbers of mulatto children, and quadroons and octoroons-as there are today – because there were depraved and libidinous men then – as there are now. Sometimes a father owned as slaves his own daughters, whose children had for fathers their mothers’ half-brothers. But these cases were rare. The Northern abolitionists exaggerated and magnified -the existence of evils -of this sort. Usually the fathers of mulatto children were depraved and disreputable white men who were not the owners of slaves.
While there was frequently a harsh master, the instances of downright cruelty to the slaves in this county were rare. There were cruel masters, as there are cruel husbands and fathers, but the rule was that slave-owners were considerate, reasonable and just. It was necessary that there should be discipline, but this was enforced with as few rigors as possible. In every municipal township there were patrols, appointed by the county court, whose duties were to patrol their respective townships a certain number of times per month, and to keep a watch and scrutiny upon the movement of the negroes.
As remarked on another page of this volume, eternal vigilance was the price of slavery. The slaves required continual oversight. There were festive spirits among them with ideas of freedom whose. movements had to be restrained; all insubordination had to be repressed; all loafing and prowling for the purpose of petty larceny had to be broken up and reproved. After the Southampton insurrection and the fearful murders of Nat Turner and his followers in 1831, “risings” and insurrections were feared wherever there were considerable communities of’ slaves. To prevent, as far as possible any trouble among or about the slaves was the office of the patrols. They made their rounds – one of their number being the leader or – “captain” -as nearly as possible at unexpected times and suddenly. No slave was allowed off the farm where he belonged or was employed after 9 o’clock at night without a written pass from his master or employer. All offenders of this class were made prisoners and punished.
The negroes had their happy times, and on the whole it is perhaps nothing but the truth to say that their average physical condition when in slavery was as good as it is to-day. The state of some of them was better. Sentimental considerations must be left to others. They had their dances, their frolics, and their assemblages of various sorts. Corn huskings were made occasions of merriment and diversion. In 1840 or later there was a custom, when the large pile of corn was husked, to take up the master and. bear him on the shoulders of the huskers at the bead of a procession which marched around the premises singing songs improvised at the time, and so called “corn songs.”
These “corn songs ” were sung while the slaves were at work in the tobacco fields, the hemp fields, the wheat fields, as well as at the huskings. They were commonly without rhyme or reason, but were sung with great volume and sometimes with much melody. The following are extracts from some of the “corn songs” sunfg in the olden time by the slaves of this county:
O, go ‘long, boys, an’ husk dat corn!
Oh! Ho! Oh! Ho!
‘Twill soon be time for de dinnah horn!
Oh! Ho! Oh! Ho!
Old Massa George he likes de fun,
Oh! Ho! Oh! Ho!
An’ we’ll dance dis night if de corn pile’s done.
Oh! Ho! Oh! Ho!
I’m gwine, down to de ole plantation,
0le plantation, 0le plantation;
To see de gal dat’s my salvation!
0le plantation, 0le plantation;
Gwine down all in a sweep,
An’ de darkeys say her massa’s asleep,
On de ole plantation, ole plantation.
In 1865, when the slaves were freed, the majority of them left their masters and mistresses and set about doing for themselves. Very many went to Palmyra and Hannibal, preferring town life to rural life. Hundreds left the State, many going to Galesburg, Illinois where were plenty of anti-slavery people from whom they expected much substantial sympathy and assistance—but did not receive it. Numbers believed that not only were they to receive their freedom, but that in some way the government was to compensate them for their term of servitude. A few are said to be yet looking for the “forty acres of land and a mule!”
Slavery received its death blow when the civil war began – so it turned out. As elsewhere stated hundreds of slaves left their masters in this county in 1862 and 1863. Even the slaves of Unionists ran away. When in 1865 by legislative enactment and the adoption of the XIII Amendment all slaves in this State were set free, there was a great deal of discontent in this county. Men declared rashly that they would not rent a negro a foot of land, or render him any sort of aid in his efforts to make a living; but in time this feeling passed away, the situation was accepted, and now there is but the merest handful of persons who would re-establish slavery if they had the power.