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Civil War and Reconstruction
The Travails of Reconstruction
The Goodings Describe Reconstruction in South Carolina.

Mrs. Ella Gooding (aged 80) and her husband Robert (aged 82) lived in Winnsboro, South Carolina, when they were interviewed by the WPA Federal Writers Project. Mrs Gooding had been born near Winnsboro; her husband had been born in Kentucky and had moved to South Carolina after the Civil War. What were the Goodings' views toward Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan? What other observations do you find interesting?

View the entire interview with the Goodings from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 . Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


Mr. Gooding: "I was born in the State of Kentucky, October 20, 1855, but my father, A. F. Gooding, and my mother with the family, moved to Polk County, Missouri, when I was but a child. My father joined the Confederate Army, although we were living in a state that didn't go with the seceded states.

"Yankees came often to our house in search for father, and they showed mother the tree on which they proposed to hang him if he was ever caught by them. They took off all our slaves without our leave, for which we never received any compensation. Mother decided to take the family, consisting of my two young brothers, Sterling and Charles, my sister, Bell, and myself back to the old home in Kentucky.

"After the war in 1869, father moved us to Winnsboro. . . .

"The military rule in Winnsboro was not oppressive; however, it was distasteful to have a Negro company of U. S. troops located here. There was no marauding, no insolence, although they were stationed here six months on Mt. Zion campus. They were transferred later and white soldiers sent in their stead. Their barracks were in the Presbyterian woods in the southern part of the town. I remember there were a good many Germans in this company who couldn't speak English to amount to much.

"The Ku Klux Klan was a necessary organization and did much to discharge [discourage?] weak white men and ignorant Negroes from lowliness. When the Ku Klux Klan wished to get rid of an undesirable white man or Negro, they would put an empty coffin at the undesirable person's front door. It usually caused the warned one to disappear. Although not a Ku Klux, one night I witnessed a parade of white-sheeted riders and recognized my own horse in the parade. In the morning my horse was in his stable, as usual. I asked no questions about the occurrence until years afterward. . . .

"After the Civil War, our people had no money. We became a one-crop people. Cotton was ready money. Northern manufacturers and western farmers encouraged this, and we were without scientific knowledge. Speculators manipulated all the profit out of cotton by a system of exchanges, grades, and quotations. A system of credit was inaugurated by the State Lien Law. By this system the farmer paid tribute to the local Caesar, twenty-five to fifty times the price for plantation supplies."
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View the entire interview with the Goodings from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.