The day was clear, the sky a deep midwinter blue. The December solstice just passed and the sun seemed reluctant to heave itself very far above the horizon. Even near midday the shadows were long and deep.
We are at Stagville, one of the largest plantations in the pre-Civil War South. Located in Durham County in north-central North Carolina. The holdings included over 900 enslaved people and 30,000 acres of land. Crops ranged from cotton to subsistence farming to tobacco.
An ancient walnut tree casts its tentacle-like shadow over one of the slave quarters at Horton Grove.
The day is quiet and still. We are alone with the eerie, long shadows, and our thoughts. Imagining what life was like here a century and a half ago. Is that wood smoke I smell from the cook fires? Am I hearing spirituals in the distance being softly sung by the women? No, just the shadows of the past and my imagination.
Outbuildings, many falling into disrepair, are being reclaimed by nature. Are those the fingerprints of slaves we see in the chinking between the logs?
A plantation this size requires huge barns to house and feed the mules and store the equipment.
Life was good in the big house.