Thomas Rothmahler Grier: The Squire

Thomas and Margaret Johnson Grier

Thomas Rothmahler Grier (1817-1883)

Thomas and Margaret Johnson Grier

Margaret Ann Johnson Grier (1823-1891)

Appointment of Johnsonville's first Postmaster, 1843

Thomas R. Grier serves as Johnsonville's second Postmaster in 1845.

Elizabeth Covan Grier Duke

Elizabeth Covan Grier Duke (1800-1873)

Franklin Evander Hanna and Julia Grier Hanna

Julia Grier and Vander Hanna

Judith Crosby Grier and husband Zachary Taylor Eaddy

Taylor Eaddy and Judith Grier

Thomas Rothmahler Grier (1817-1883) and his wife, Margaret Ann Johnson Grier (1823-1891). Thomas was a magistrate and was known as "The Squire." He owned a plantation near Lynches River given by Margaret Johnson's father William J. Johnson, who founded Johnsonville through running Witherspoon's Ferry and applying for a Post Office to be established in 1843.  Grier served as the second Postmaster of Johnsonville in 1845 after John L. Gerard. 

The Johnson plantation was a part of the original grant to John James. William Johnson, Sr. had bought a part of the grant from the heirs of John James. He also purchased a portion of the land granted to the Witherspoons. It was part of the Witherspoon grant that was given to Margaret Johnson Grier.

Margaret was the daughter of Captain William J. Johnson (1787-1851) and Sarah Crosby Johnson (1790-1867). Thomas Grier was the son of James Marion Grier (1780-1827) and Elizabeth W Covan (1800-1873).

Elizabeth Covan Grier later married a second time to Thomas Duke. She is buried along side Thomas and Margaret Grier at the Grier Cemetery in Johnsonville.

The children of Thomas and Margaret Johnson Grier are:
Sarah Grier (1844–1900) m. William Melvin Haselden
William James Grier (1848–1917) m. Celia Graves Johnson
Julia Ann Grier (1850–1900) m. Franklin Evander Hanna
Thomas Mitchell Grier (1854–1877)
Judith Crosby Grier (1857–1938) m. Zachary Taylor Eaddy

The description that follows of plantation life along the Lynches River preceding the Civil War was narrated by Judith Grier, who married Zachary Taylor Eaddy. Judith was the daughter of Margaret Johnson, (Margaret being the daughter of Captain William Johnson and Sarah Crosby) and Thomas Rothmahler Grier. Judith Grier Eaddy's reminiscences were recorded by Elizabeth Waddell Eaddy, Judith's daughter-in-law, in an unpublished manuscript entitled, "All In A Lifetime".

Some of the language below referring to African Americans is offensive and outdated - the information is presented in the context of the time period as was originally dictated by Judith Grier Eaddy:

From a small plantation near the present site of Hemingway where Mr. White Johnson now lives, Thomas Grier moved to the old home at Petersfield (near Yauhanna Ferry). He lived there only a few years for  the plantation at Johnsonville was given to his wife by her father. A fortune in slaves was also given her. They remained at Johnsonville as long as they lived.

The Johnson plantation was a part of the original grant to John James. William Johnson, Sr. had bought a part of the grant from the heirs of John James. He also purchased a portion of the land granted to the Witherspoons. It was part of the Witherspoon grant that was given to Margaret Johnson Grier.

The old housed had two stories with the first floor very high off the 
ground. There were two large main rooms downstairs with two shed rooms built off from them at the back. Upstairs were a small room and a large one. The dining room and the kitchen were connected with the main part of the house by an open passageway. Here the family generally ate during the summer and it was the favorite gathering place for the whole family.

Besides running the plantation, the Squire had the largest inland store 
between Georgetown and Marion. His store was about seven miles from the nearest landing; most of the larger stores were closer to the river for greater convenience in getting their goods. The Squire's biggest 
business; however, was money lending. The Squire had the reputation of being a hard man, and he never did let anyone get anything that belonged to him. He was considered the wealthiest man in the country. Although he exacted his dues from all the able-bodied, he never turned a deaf ear to the widowed or helpless. 

Every morning, assisted by his body slave, a "boy" who had belonged to him since he was a child, he mounted his horse and rode over the whole plantation. Even though he was very stout and it was a difficult job to get him in the saddle, he rode as erectly as he ever did. No detail on the farm was too small to escape his eye, and everything must be in its proper place. The darkey who had performed his task well and faithfully was sure to be rewarded with a kind word, while the darkey who had slighted his was just as sure to be rewarded with a "cuss" word or two. 

After his inspection of the plantation, he went to the store where he spent the remainder of the day. 

There were three cooks in the kitchen, or rather kitchens, for in the summer the kitchen was moved to cooler quarters in the yard. The little house in the yard was called the summer kitchen. Maum Mary was the head cook. Venus and Silvia were her assistants. Each of these had her own helper. There were several little pickaninnies always at the beck and call of the cooks and their assistants. These were in training to become cooks themselves.

There were three boys who served the meals and waited on the long table during the meals. These boys also had their tasks to do about the house and were known as house boys. The older children had a nurse who had the general oversight of them, kept their clothes mended and in order, and trained their Negro girls. The five older girls (Agnes, who was fifteen when Judith was born; Sarah, Hortense, Julia, and Mary) all had a girl of their own. These girls, about the age of their mistresses, were given to them when they were small. Jim and Mitchell, the two boys, had their own "negroes" from whom they were inseparable, and Judith had a nurse, Silvia, to herself. 

In addition to the cooks, table boys, nurses, and individual servants, three or four girls were on hand at all times to do anything that Ole Miss, Missis, or Marster required done. This huge household was fed from Squire's kitchen. The Missis, as the slaves called the Squire's wife, was the mainspring that ran the whole household and kept it regulated. 

Besides the house she had charge of the supplies for the plantation Negroes, which was a man-sized job in itself. She also supervised the spinning and weaving, not only for the household, but for the whole plantation as well. The loom house stood in the yard and held the spinning wheels and looms. In summer the spinning wheels were always carried out under the trees near the house. Three spinning wheels were kept running from dawn until dark, summer and winter; and three big looms were kept clacking to furnish cloth for the plantation. Dye, before the War, was brought from the North or abroad, and the hanks of yarn from the spinning wheel were dyed before being carried to the loom. The carders, too, worked in the yard when the weather was pleasant, preparing the cotton for the spinning wheel and the clickety-clack of the loom was so constant that at night little Judy sometimes awoke and was alarmed at the unnatural stillness and silence.

Every garment was cut out by the Missis herself. Cloth was much too precious to allow anyone else to cut it. The garments were made by the fingers of women who were not strong enough for active work. On fine days the seamstresses sat out in the big back yard under the shade of big trees. Each had her stool and work basket. On days when the weather did not permit this, the most reliable workers were allowed to carry their work to their own cabins. The others sewed in one corner of the large loom house under the supervision of a trusty 
old woman.

All the Sunday dresses worn by the family were made of "factory cloth," so-called to distinguish it from the cloth woven at home. The best dresses were always spoken of as Sunday dresses as they were worn chiefly on Sundays. On his trips to Georgetown or Charleston, the Squire frequently bought the girls a pretty piece of goods for an extra dress.

All other garments worn, even the Squire's suits were spun, dyed, woven, cut, and made on the plantation. Judith's mother did a great deal of the family sewing herself at night after the activities of the day were over.

When Judith was a very little girl, not long before the War, her father bought a family of slaves at an auction of the Collins estate of the Pee Dee, a woman with several children. On arrival they were brought to the house for inspection. There was a little girl, Amy, just the age of 
Judith. When Amy's mother saw little Judy, she brought Amy forward and said, "Dis Lettle Missie maid." And Little Missie's maid she remained, at her side constantly all day and sleeping on a pallet at her bedside at night. Henry, one of Amy's brothers, was taken into the house as a house boy and was one of the best, most faithful servants they had. (Henry planed a part in Judith's later events found in "Love Story".) 

The plantation was an eight horse farm before the war. The original tract given to Margaret (Johnson) Grier had been added to by the Squire until a large area adjoining it has been taken. Much of it was swamp and wood land. The house lot itself consisted of three acres. The Negro quarters took up as much more while there were outhouses innumerable for every conceivable purpose.

No money crops were planted, but plenty of food for all; corn, peas, potatoes, and great fields of cane. Cotton was raised only for home use. Tobacco had not yet been introduced to the Pee Dee.  

Great herds of cattle and droves of hogs, goats, and sheep as well as flocks of turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens roamed over the uncleared land. So the plantation was practically self supporting. Sugar, flour, and coffee were the only things bought and those were just for use at the big house and the sick among the slaves. Sugar for the slaves was obtained by thickening of the cane syrup, for if cooked thick, much of it will turn to sugar.

The overseer had a cottage about a quarter of a mile from the big house. He had his own garden, hogs, chickens, and barn. The overseer took his orders every morning direct from the Squire. He, in turn, transmitted them to the Negro foreman. He had the general supervision and care of the whole plantation and hands while at work, although there was little he was allowed to do on his own initiative, for the Squire directed everything. This was not so on all plantations. The overseer on most Southern plantations was generally a man of the lower classes who owned no land or slaves.

All the shoes worn by the family and the slaves were made at home. The hides from cattle on the place were tanned and cured by the slaves. None of the Squire's slaves knew the shoemaker's trade, so he hired two slaves from a nearby plantation. These were kept busy at work every day in the little shoe shop.

In the fall the syrup mill ground out sugar cane and cooked the juice. The Negroes liked to be detailed for this duty. The Squire had corn ground at a mill on the river for his table use, but the Negroes ground out their own corn on an old hand mill. Usually a large fire was built on the street of the quarters, furnishing light as well as heat. Around this the darkies would gather at night after supper with their corn. As they turned the mill they would sing. They sang all the old familiar 

Negro songs; one they were especially fond of was "Wait for the Wagon." It started off like this:

"Some Sunday morning I'll wait for my love, 
We'll jump in the wagon and all take a ride."

The Squire made a weekly inspection of the Negro quarters. Under his 
inspection the yards and all outside premises were kept absolutely 
sanitary. The cabins inside were inspected every week by the Mistress 
herself. Each cabin had two rooms with a clay chimney at one end. Some of the cabins had lean-tos or shed rooms built on if the family was a large one. Every building in the Negro quarters received a coat of whitewash each year. The buildings were whitewashed inside and out.

There were eighteen or twenty families in these quarters. Each family 
had its own garden, potato patch, and chickens. Some even had a hog or two. This was not allowed on every plantation, but at the Squire's the darkies took great pride in the possession of their own things. The most industrious had a little patch of hardy annuals blooming in front of the cabin and a vine growing over the door. The growing of these was 
encouraged by the Mistress, for it helped keep the Negroes contented.

The Mistress took entire charge of all the sick and ailing. The Negroes 
were much too valuable to neglect them in any way. If one became ill or 
did not respond to simple remedies, the doctor was called in. An old 
Negro nurse was installed and the Mistress went to and fro constantly, 
giving every dose of medicine herself. Many a night did she sit in one 
of the little cabins, watching over the sick and suffering.

When a baby was expected the expectant mother was guarded and watched over carefully. The Mistress cut every garment herself for the layette, and had the clothing made by the most careful seamstress on the place, Maum Hagar. All arrangements for the confinement were directed by her. Afterwards, both mother and baby received the utmost care and attention. 

The mother was fed from the Squire's table for several weeks and often 
longer if she or the baby proved delicate. Negro babies were highly 
prized. They were more valuable than blooded stock is now. Sometimes 
there were as many as twelve babies in a year but each received the same particular attention.

All the Negro babies and children too young to be in the fields were left 
in the big back yard under the shade trees. Two Negro women, too old for regular field work, under the oversight of Maum Hagar, had charge of them. The women sat on their stools and sewed as they watched over their charges. The little boys played with their sticks, rode them as horses, used them as swords, and found countless other ways of diverting themselves. The little girls made dolls from sticks. They put a rag over one end of a stick, tying it close to make a head, and then with 
charcoal they drew a face. They made playhouses under the trees, using all the bits of broken glassware and dishes they could find.

Christmas morning as soon as breakfast was over the darkies from the 
quarters crowded to the back door of the big house. The house servants had already greeted each member of the family with "Chris'mas gif, Marsa, Chris'mas gif, Missis." And each servant had been remembered with a small gift from each member of the family. The personal servants received some nice gift from their own master or mistress. Now, as the Negroes came in from the quarter the family appeared at the door amid vociferous cries of "Chris'mas gif!" There was a present for each one: a hat or coat for older men, pipes, tobacco, or something fancy for every one of the others.

Several hogs were barbecued for the Christmas dinner, to which were added all the other delicacies which the women had prepared. Each night during the Christmas week there was a big dance. Everything would be removed from one cabin. A bonfire would be lit in the yard at a safe distance from the cabin door. A fire was started in the fireplace of the cabin. At dusk the crowd began to gather and soon the dance was in full swing. 

Between dances the crowd around the fire would add their voices to the 
music of the fiddle and the banjo in melodies that could be clearly heard 
from bucks, who seemed never to tire, would indulge in the buck and wing dance, the Charleston, or a regular jig. These exhibitions were given mainly to show off before some girl whose attention the dancer wished to attract. On New Year's Eve the biggest frolic of all was held, the winding up of the whole year.

* * * * * * *
There were a few colored pastors and a few scattered churches for 
Negroes. But the slaves preferred, when they went to church, to go to 
Marsa's church. Always the back seats or the balconies were reserved for those who wished to come. The Negroes joined the white people's church and were received in by the white pastors. This was especially true of the house servants. The field hands attended a little chapel not far from the plantation.

* * * * * * *
The Squire, who was a magistrate, was often called upon to marry couples, white as well as black. Judith remembered one night when six couples came to be married. Henry and Dan, the house boys, stood on each side of the door with great torches to light the scene.


Information compiled by Josh Dukes