Ways of Men

The people of Midway District and Saint Johns Parish lived a very simple way of life broken only by religious activities and a few social events. Most of them had relatives and friends in South Carolina whom they visited from time to time. Family reunions were observed regularly.


They were hearty eaters and enjoyed beef, pork, and fowl which they raised themselves, and venison and turkey from the woods. They harvested shrimp, fish, and oysters from the ocean and coastline, and very early discovered shad fish in the Ogeechee River. They raised vegetables during the summer, and stored potatoes, onions, and squash to last through the winter. Corn and green beans were dried during the summer and used in a mixture called “leather britches” in the winter. Gardens of greens were grown during the spring and autumn. They planted spice gardens and used hand-mills to grind the spices for cooking.


Cane syrup was the primary sweetner in the Midway Dis­trict. Sugar came into use in Saint Johns Parish before the Revolutionary War. Rice was generally eaten three times a day from 1754 to the Revolutionary War. Water-powered mills ground their corn, from which came a bread called “hoe cake” because it was baked on an implement which resembled a garden hoe of that period. Corn grits was un­known to residents of the Midway District and Saint Johns Parish.


All of the food was cooked in an open fireplace in the main room of the home. By 1770, however, most of the affluent plantation owners in Saint Johns Parish had kitchens built away from the main house. Cast iron pots and kettles hung on hooks around the fireplace, and skillets with long handles were used to protect the cook from the fire. Baking was done in the chimney.


All of the early plantation homes in the Midway District were small. By the time of the Revolutionary War, planta­tion owners in Saint Johns Parish had large and beautiful homes. None of them, however, was of Greek architecture like homes built in other parts of Georgia during the period 1800-1860.


The first form of transportation in the Midway District of Georgia was the backs of slaves, mules, and horses. The residents of Saint Johns Parish built a system of public roads and some of the more affluent had elegant carriages. But their work transportation was a two-wheeled cart with a wooden body about three feet deep, about six feet long, and five feet wide. These conveyances, still in use on coastal Georgia farms 150 years later, were sometimes called “Crack­er Carts.” But the residents of the Midway District were certainly not “crackers” a term used to describe those persons who drifted from one part of the country to the other, and did no more work than was absolutely necessary to survive. They were also referred to in Saint Johns Parish as “Pine Knockers.”


Reverend Archibald Simpson of South Carolina visited Saint Johns Parish and expressed astonishment at “the great and beautiful improvements in the Midway settlement.” He wrote in glowing terms of “the fine plantations, the large and well-finished meeting house, the good public roads, in what seven years before was looked upon as an almost impenetrable swamp.”


The first residents of the Midway District and Saint Johns Parish were, to a large degree, shut off from the rest of the world. They married and intermarried to such a degree that almost everybody was related by blood or marriage with everybody else.


They were a kind and hospitable people. Bona fide travel­ers were welcome in their homes at all times. They worked hard on their plantations to bring about a more comfortable life for themselves and a secure future for their children. They were a tempo rate people who lived in an area constantly beset by fevers, which could have, but did not, give them an excuse to drink alcoholic beverages.


They were a liberal people who paid their pastor $1,000 a year salary, and provided him with a plantation called a “glebe.” It produced for him a way of life like that of the other plantation owners.


They were a musical people who hired professional teach­ers to instruct their children in music. There were practice sessions in the Meeting House one or two evenings a week when no trouble with Creek Indians was occurring.


Men among the first settlers of the Midway District, for the most part, had no military experience. The Indian wars in South Carolina never touched their former home in Dor­chester. South Carolina. They found a military leader in Mark Carr.