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“Colored Folks of the Antebellum Days”

July 6, 2009

From the Page News & Courier ca. 1937

The veteran colored folks of Luray were born before the gory days of the sixties but lived in the memory of later generations. They were Fred Lacey, Nimrod Bruce, Harrison Carpenter, Ned Harris, John Smith, Wesley Hill, Tom Jackson, Joe Hill, Ben Robinson and perhaps others.

In the major part they were an honorable aggregation of colored citizens. They set the pace that was followed by the better element of their race. They lived at a time when politeness was an outstanding characteristic. Fred Lacey and Nimrod Bruce were two of the one-horse wagoners in the days that are now local history. Each had his one horse wagon. They went from the crack of day till the cadence of the whipperwill. Harrison Carpenter was the ‘right hand’ man of the late Andrew Broaddus for many years clerk of the Page County court. He groomed the Broaddus steeds and was ready at every beck and call to do his master’s bidding. Ned Harris played the same role for Sam Ritchie, late County Treasurer. He once went to Mount Sterling, Kentucky for a thoroughbred. He rode the horse back through the mountain of West Virginia and declared that he had ‘rather ride an old plug than to have his arms pulled off by a Kentucky race horse.’ This Kentucky thoroughbred soon became more than a match for Ned and was turned over to the late J. Victor Renalds for taming. The Renalds process worked to perfection. In the long, long ago, John Smith was one of the principle hog killers for Luray people. In hog killing seasons sometime he went from daylight ‘until all the lard was rendered,’ the ponhoss was to perfection and the pudding and sausage were stuffed. He carried his butchering equipment in a belt around his body, and prided himself with immaculate aprons and when he had finished salting and peppering meat no skippers dared to tamper with it. Wesley Hill., a bowlegged tobacco chewer, was a one time the principle shoemaker on the hill. He got lots of work and did it in a workman like manner and kept his wife, ‘Aunt Betsy’ as a paragon of splombness even when white folks called on her. Tom Jackson was at one time Luray’s only tonsorial artist. He had his shop for a long time in a building on the present site of the Shandelson Ladies Store building in West Luray. At another time Tom held forth in a basement one door west of the Mansion Inn. He is said to have dispensed carious things for the needs of his customers at both ‘joints.’ Joe Hill was a product of Madison County, was a hard worker and the husband of the inimitable ‘Nish’ Hill, of West Luray, and of placatorial fame. Joe was a quasi-farmer. ‘Nish’ gave all the points in their agricultural life when he came to the working side.

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