Excerpts from the Journal of Gertrude Thomas

Gertrude Thomas

1865

Monday, May 29, 1865. Out of all our old house servants not one remains except Patsey and a little boy, Frank. We have one of our servants Uncle Jim to take Daniel’s place as driver and butler and a much more efficient person he proves to be. Nancy has been cooking since Tamah left. On last Wednesday I hired a woman to do the washing. Thursday I expected Nancy to iron but she was sick. In the same way she was sick the week before when there was ironing to do. I said nothing but told Patsey to get breakfast. After it was over I assisted her in wiping the breakfast dishes, a thing I never remember
to have done more than once or twice in my life. I then thoroughly cleaned up the sitting room and parlour… In the afternoon I went in the ironing room and in to see Nancy. The clothes were all piled upon a table, the flies swarming over them. The room looking as if it had not been cleaned up in several weeks. Nancy’s room was in just the same state. I asked her “if she was not well enough to sprinkle some of the clothes.” “No” she replied “she was not well enough to do anything.” Said I, “Nancy do you expect I can afford to pay you wages in your situation, support your two children and then have you sick as much as you are?” She made no reply and I came in.

The next morning after Patsey had milked the cow & had fire made in the kitchen, she [Nancy] volunteered to cook breakfast—Immediately after breakfast as I was writing by the window Turner directed my attention to Nancy with her two children, Hannah and Jessy, going out of the gate. I told him to enquire “where she was going.” She had expected to leave with flying colours but was compelled to tell a falsehood for she replied “I will be back directly.” I knew at once that she surprised when I went into her room sometime afterwards to find that all of her things had been removed. I was again engaged in housework most of the morning…

Susan, Kate’s nurse, Ma’s most trusty servant, her advisor, right hand woman and best liked house servant has left her. I am under too many obligations to Susan to have harsh feelings toward her. During six confinements Susan has been with me, the best of servants, rendering the most efficient help. To Ma she has always been invaluable and in case of sickness there was no one like Susan. Her husband Anthony was one of the first to leave the Cumming Plantation and incited others to do the same. I expect he Influences Susan, altho have often heard Pa say that in case of a revolt among Negroes he thought that Susan would prove a ringleader. Aunt Vilet the cook a very excellent one at that left Sunday night. She was a plantation servant during her young days and another favorite of Ma’s. Palmer the driver left the same morning with Susan, remained longer than anyone expected that he would. He is quite a Beau Brummell as he gallants a coloured demoiselle or walks up the street with his cigar in his mouth. … Yesterday numbers of the negro women some of them quite black were promenading up the streets with black lace veil shading them from the embrowning rays of a sun under whose influence they had worked all their life… On Thursday Rev Dr Finch of the Federal Army addressed the citizens on the subject of their late slaves and Saturday addressed the Negroes at the parade ground on their duty. I think now they have the Negroes free they don’t know what to do with them—

Belmont, Monday, June 12, 1865. I must confess to you my journal that I do most heartily dispise Yankees, Negroes and everything connected with them. The theme has been sung in my hearing until it is a perfect abomination—I positively instinctively shut my ears when I hear the hated subject mentioned and right gladly would I be willing never to place my eyes upon another as long as I live. Everything is entirely reversed. I feel no interest in them whatever and hope I never will—

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