Marina "Ma" Jane Adger Story

Ma Jane Born:1807, Charleston, South Carolina, Died: 1909 at Chicora, Bossier Parish, Louisiana. Ma Jane was featured with Ripley's Believe it or not for serving the Adger Family for five generations and lived for 102 years.

I am taking the following notes directly from a paper that William Ellison's son, Ellison Moultrie wrote about what he remembered: Shortly after their marriage my parents moved permanently to Louisiana. He had been in Louisiana and South Carolina assisting his father with the farming interest in both these states. When they decided to move to Louisiana it was quite an undertaking. My parents came by steamer to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi and Red Rivers to Carolina Bluffs in Bossier Parish, which was then the head of navigation for some years on account of the rafts in the river. The horses, mules and cattle, as well as the Negroes all came over land, a trip that took weeks if not months. The wagon train was in charge of an "over-seer". Old "Ma Jane" as we called her often described this trip to me. She was a very remarkable old Negro of pure African decent, but with a heart of gold for all our family, which included five generations. She was only a year older than my grandfather. She served our family from my great grandfather through to my children. She died when she was one hundred and two years old. She said after a great many weeks they at last reached the Mississippi River on Christmas Day. She did not remember the place, but it must have been Vicksburg or Natchez, I am rather inclined to think it was the latter , as she said "there was a hotel where they were dancing in one room and a corpse was laid out in the next room", much to the horror of the traveling Negroes. This sounds like the record of 'Natchez under the Hill" in the early days of the steam boats. After leaving Natchez or Vicksburg they started across the great swamp between there and Monroe. You can just imagine what conditions on the roads where then in December, in fact there was hardly any roads to speak of and they came through almost a wilderness inhabited by Indians, however friendly Indians. There was a great deal of game; deer, turkeys, ducks, geese and bear. The Indians would have big pots of venison cooking along the route and the Indian children would "filch" chunks of the meat out of the boiling water and run away in the woods to eat it. They were expert in this and she said they never seemed to get burned in doing so. When my grandfather decided to build a home in Louisiana he arranged to get lumber from Underwood Mill, which was located in the flat country between where Benton and Alden Bridge now stand. Only the best trees were selected in the building of Chicora. It was the general custom then for mills to square up the big logs until the heart was reached, then to saw the squared heart of the virgin pine into the desired sizes of lumber, dry it and there being no plainer then all the lumber was hand dressed with hand planes by the carpenters. These huge virgin pine trees were no doubt some of them hundreds of years old and generally had a towering trunk without any limbs until almost at the extreme top . I have not seen one of these virgin pines in many years and doubt if many yet survive the saw mills and the wind storms. My father was very fond of hunting and at the time of his death in 1877 a perfect set of deer antlers adorned the top of every post around our front lawn which was mute evidence of his fine marksmanship. When my family came to Louisiana from South Carolina in the early part of the last century, Bossier Parish was a hunters paradise. Ma Jane said they brought a good deal of bacon and cured meats with them from South Carolina but game was so plentiful and easy to secure they hardly used any of the salt meats. When the early settlers first arrived in North Louisiana it was covered with virgin forest of beautiful trees, In the hill section hugh pines and oaks and in the Red River bottoms giant cottonwood, ash and such woods. In the upland s or what is termed "hills" the Indians had made a practice each year of burning over the woods, perhaps to run the game out to them. Any way this practice of burning the woods yearly kept all the underbrush down and only the big old virgin pines and oaks stood the ravages of the fire and the whole wooded section had the appearance of a stately park and I have been told you could see a deer as he gracefully bounded through the park-like vistas several hundred yards away. My father did most of his deer hunting with out dogs. Some times he would hunt at night with a crude flash light on his head. This light would shine the eyes of the game. It was very necessary however to be experienced in this mode of hunting and to know what sort of eyes you were shinning, otherwise, the hunter might make a serious mistake. One night my father was out deer hunting this way and with him was Dr. Wilson who lived in our home at that time. My father saw a pair of eyes shinning but paid no attention to them. Later Dr. Wilson who had very little experience in night hunting saw the eyes, and blazed away at them with a double barrel shot gun, loaded with buck shot, sad to relate the next day Uncle Soloman, Old Ma Jane's brother came to report someone had shot his work horse, so Dr. Wilson had to buy the old man another horse and the Doctor quit night hunting from that time on. My father was also very fond of duck hunting. Old Uncle Noah often went on the lake with him. This old man was of pure African decent and was very tall, about 6 foot 6 inches. Once when they were out hunting the boat overturned and Uncle Noah took my father on his back and waded to shore, through waters that would have forced any ordinary man to swim. My father's favorite saddle horse was a white horse named "Tom", who lived some years after my father's death. This old horse ran away with some one the day before his death a t the age of 30 years which was quite aged for a horse. My father often rode this horse hunting as he was swift an d sure of foot. A Cousin told me he was out hunting with my father, they jumped a turkey gobbler and my father shot him through the head while the turkey and Tom were both running. "Chicora" is the Indian name for Carolina. "Chicora" was a duplicate of "Albion" the plantation home in South Carolina. I would say from these stories, that Ellison not only loved his father very much, he was also very proud of him. To quote Abraham Lincoln, "I like to see a man proud of his place, I like to see a man live so his place is proud of him." Compiled by Lucie Adger.

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note: Story is that a pure African slave of the Adgers named Yammaho took the name of Player. According to Mississippi River Notes which is a compilation of historical items and stories from the south it includes the following: "'Yammaho' taught my sister Janie to count in his African dialect up to eight, which for all I know was as far as he was able to count. The counting was as follows: 1 Kello, 2 Menno, 3 Flammen, 4 Danzo, 5 Dillemany, 6 Luto, 7 Lito and 8 Kurviah."

Ma Jane