By Barb Hauge
When my parents were newly married they spent a season in Virginia. Dad helped Grandpa Frank Baird and his brother-in-law, Williard King tear down old homes and outbuildings. This led to interesting experiences and fascinating finds.
In the wall of one southern mansion was a letter dating back to the American Revolution stating, I am fearful my Dear Jack that you will think me rather negligent in not having wrote to you for so long. I hope you have enjoyed your health since I heard from you last? I have not been so fortunate. This lady apparently writes from England and is in contact with Tories who oppose the American Revolution. She goes on to say, I am extremely concerned to hear that officers are carried on with so high a hand in America. People here are about all of opinion that the unfortunate union between our countrymen and his Majestys troops will be the means of much bloodshed.
The mild climate of Virginia with peaches growing on the trees was quite a contrast to Montana winters. We have a picture of my parents and Grandpa on a boat with long oyster tongs, fishing in Chesapeake Bay.
My Mother and Aunt Henrietta Baird King utilized their time by becoming Sweitzer Ladies which meant they became door to door sales ladies for Sweitzer goods showing their customers swatches of fabric for sale. While thus employed Aunt Henrietta hired a black Mammy or Nanny to care for her baby son Jasper. This dear lady was called Aunt Sally and she was a devoted and loving surrogate mother. Their friendship with Aunt Sally was so great they flouted the strict Southern segregation of the early 1900s by socializing with Aunt Sally and her family. During their sojourn in Virginia the Baird and King families would go visit Aunt Sallys family after dark so as not to offend the white community. At Aunt Sallys they would eat hoe cakes and enjoy wonderful music performed by her talented family including sing-alongs where all joined in.
Years later, after they had returned to Wisconsin and their little son, Jasper died, they received a letter of condolence written by Aunt Sallys son because his Mother had been a slave; forbidden to read or write and had never learned. They kept in touch for many years.
In a letter written from Jennings Ordy, Virginia on August 13, 1930, My dear Mrs. King. I guess you think I am never going to answer your letter but I have been up here with Granty Burke every since the day I received your letter and stay busy waiting on Granty Burke. It is very dry here now. The drouth has swept away everything all the gardens and most of the crops. It is real sad through here now. Revival is going on at Old Nottoway this week. We have had our church remodel over and it looks like a new church. We have a real nice Sunday School over there Hicky Grove. We also have a lovely pastor. Revival begins over there on the 4th Sunday. You all must pray we have a success in gathering souls for Jesus. It was signed Respectfully yours Sally Morris.
Aunt Sallys daughter was a maid-of-all-work at an all white Young Mens Academy. To them she was a nonentity and their talk was not cleaned up to account for her presence. The Morris family had a few acres of farmland where they managed a bare living. They brought sacked grain and cotton to market in a flatbed buggy drawn by two mules.
Such was Southern life in the early 20th Century.