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Clearing out for Fort Stewart

Interview with Harry Smith

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POSTED: September 5, 2012 3:05 p.m.

Harry Smith lived in Evans County at the time of this interview. His family lived about five miles from Willie. His granddaddy’s log cabin had a dirt floor.  The family had originally come from South Carolina.

"You could tear down your buildings and carry them with you if you wanted to.  The price the government bought the places for and the price you had to pay for new land was an entirely different story.  My mother got $35 an acre for her property.  She left the area and had to pay $125 an acre.  She had to borrow money to buy the place and it was two or three years before she got her money from the government.  It put a hardship on people in many ways besides uprooting and disturbing them.

"There were a lot of black families in the area.  Many of our neighbors were black and they had a much harder time finding land than the whites.  Many of the blacks had been there for generations.

"The black fellow James Clark’s land that joined ours had over 1,000 acres.  He had bought the land from a naval stores company for a quarter an acre.  He had his own turpentine still right behind our field and employed 25-30 people.

"Late in the evenings you could hear the blacks singing in practically all directions.  That was a good sound, too.  They would beat the gum barrels.  They made a tune with their voices, the barrels, and buckets.  It was very nice."

He remembers hearing about Indian mounds found by the turpentine workers.  (Another person had collected a big shoebox of arrowheads while plowing the fields.)

There were many overflowing artesian springs in the area.

Many people did not have enough money to buy another place after they paid off the mortgage and some owed back taxes.  By the time the mortgage, taxes, and creditors were paid most folks did not have enough money left to buy more land.  The price of the little available land outside the area went up real high.  It was a bad situation.

He said he had many fond memories of the land where Fort Stewart is now.  The government could take the land away but they never could take away how they felt about the land.

 

 

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