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Louise J. Sills Oral History Interview (#OH0004), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Louise Jelks Sills, whose ancestors came from Greenville Co., Virginia, and settled in Nash Co., N.C., recounts family history and tradition concerning life at Belford Plantation. The plantation was started by her great-grandfather David Sills and remained in the Sills family for a hundred years (p. 1).
Included in her description of Belford are: the store which was established on the plantation in 1798 (p. 1); the plantation house itself; the post office (1804) (p. 2); the church (1857) (pp. 6, 15); the school (p. 6); the blacksmith shop (p. 3); the ice house (p. 4); and the doctor's office (p. 5). She also describes Christmas (p. 17) at Belford and gives some history of the Sills, Alston, Jelks, and Thompson family genealogies, courtships, family life, and ghost stories (pp. 5-12).
Other topics discussed are domestic life on a plantation, slavery and the hiring of slaves, the invasion of Union troops during the Civil War, and activities of the Ku Klux Klan (pp. 3-24).
She also gives several brief descriptions of how Reconstruction affected her family and their friends. For instance, she describes how after the slaves were freed white families did not know how to take care of themselves, even in the essentials of cooking (pp. 4-5).
Some details are given by Miss Sills concerning the schools the Sills family attended, including the Edgeworth School in Greensboro, N.C. (p. 9), St. Mary's Hall in New Jersey (p. 9), and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School (pp. 13-14). There is also a detailed description of the school that was started on the Belford Plantation (pp. 5-6).
Several sections of the interview concern apparent death. Miss Sills gives detailed descriptions of how people were presumed dead and came back to life (pp. 12-14).
Another part of the interview concerns her life in Nashville, N.C., where the Sills family moved to from Belford Plantation in 1898 (p. 18). She gives a detailed account of the hanging in Nashville in 1900 of two Negro men for robbery and murder (pp. 26-27). She also describes how times have changed during her lifetime, reminiscing about the first telephone system (pp. 21-22) and other advancements in Nashville.
The Sills famly was predominant in the Nash County Circuit Court. Miss Sills's father became the county clerk in 1898 (p. 18) and her brother took over the office fourteen years later (p. 20), remaining in the office for fifty-seven years. Miss Sills worked as an assistant clerk for her brother from 1932 to 1962 (p. 20).
For related materials see Collection #201 and Mf. Collection #11.