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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Brutality and violence in frontier life

Virginia Foster Durr descended from a wealthy southern family that moved to Alabama during the early 1800s. She describes stories she heard from her grandmother about life in the antebellum South, especially the tension and brutality of slavery and the slave trade.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

My great grandfather married a girl named Hannah Johnston. They met in a stockade because of the Indian wars. Of course, they were taking the land away from the Indians. They were married and had, I think, thirteen children, twelve sons and one daughter. My grandfather was one of them and they prospered and did very well, because my grandfather was sent to Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia and became a doctor. Then, he came back to Georgia and about the 1840's he met my grandmother. She was a Heard and her mother was a MacGruder. Now, these are all Scotch names, all Presbyterians. They also met in a stockade, the last flicker of the Indian wars. She was only fifteen when they married, a very young girl. But they married and came over to Alabama and settled in Union Springs. Evidently, they brought some slaves with them. Union Springs at that time was a very rich part of the country. You see, this was the migration from the old worn out lands in the east to the west, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and finally to Texas. They would come over because they didn't know how to conserve the land and to fertilize it and they would have to get fresh land. The land around Union Springs was enormously rich and there was a great big spring there. There are all kinds of tales about Union Springs, it has quite a history because there was a terrible kind of competition between slave traders selling slaves. At Union Springs, one man poisoned the spring and killed all the slaves that the other trader was selling. Horrible things like that come out of the past that chill your blood. Whatever the glamour of the society was, it was based on this terrible slave system. Anyway, my family established themselves in Union Springs and my grandfather was a doctor and also they acquired a lot of land.