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Old News Stories
Colonel Carter's Funeral, 1897

From The Atlanta Constitution
November 15, 1897



Impressive Scene at the Funeral of Colonel
Samuel M. Carter in Murray County.


He Was a Gentleman of the Old School and Lived On
His Plantation in the Mountains–Eight Gray-Headed
Darkeys Were His Pall Bearers.

In these pressing days of quick changes and reversed condition when true sentiment is so often crowded out and the romance which was once a distinctive characteristic of this section brushed aside for cold actualities any glimpse into the past civilization strikes with peculiar force, and is valuable as an insight into what the south really was.

It was in Murray county Tuesday last that such a glimpse of southern life came. An impressive picture it was of the time when the baronial age in Georgia presented to the world the truest culture and the highest patriotism. It was like lifting a leaf from the calendar of those days of lordly estates, for what was seen was then a common custom, but those who came together at Rock Spring last Tuesday witnessed a sight unique and impressive now.

To its distant resting place nearly a quarter of a mile distant the body of Colonel Samuel McDonald Carter was borne by eight old negroes. These pallbearers were gray-haired men who had been his slaves, and who for forty years had made their recurring crops on the acres they tilled while in enforced servitude.

There was something strangely impressive in the scene, and everything seemed in keeping with the solemn significance of the occasion. About was the encircling crown of the Cohutta mountains. On the slope of one of the most prominent spurs was the country burying ground in a grove of fir and cedar. There was a strange stillness everywhere over the basin which had been scooped out by nature for the home place. There was awe as well as grief on the stern visage of the mountaineers who had known the dead man as the kindliest of neighbors, the most generous patron. They had ridden miles over the radiating mountain ways. Some had brought their wives and children. These were huddled in silent groups. Their horses had been tethered to the limbs of an oak tree not far from the house. Sometimes the whinneying of an impatient steed broke discordantly upon the calm.

The family was large and followed close behind the casket, with a large gathering of friends in the rear. Then came the negroes, a sorrowing host, many of whom had been the slaves of the Carters before the war. The old women were crooning in a minor monotone and the swaying of their bodies kept time to the cadence of their voices.

Their grief was real. In the van were the eight ex-slaves bearing the casket with loving hands, bowing their white heads under the heaviness of grief. It was a scene which will never be witnessed again–the burial of one of the last of the barons.

Rock Spring is historic. In the days before the white man came it was the regular rendezvous for the Indians, and the tribes held their great war councils there. Even after the encroachment of civilization it was a resort for the redskins, and there are several houses still standing on the old Carter place built by the Cherokees. The Indians always had an eye for natural beauty. They were a part of nature themselves and fitted in well with the sublimity of landscape always selected as the scene of the great councils. For this reason Rock Spring was a favored retreat, and the Indians came there long after Farish Carter, the father of Colonel Samuel Carter, secured the place. Farish Carter was of the old cavalier stock. He had married Eliza McDonald, who was the sister of Charles J. McDonald, the governor. Samuel Carter was born in 1826. He grew up under conditions of profusive wealth, and his loyal spirit was saturated with an intense love for the south. While a young man he married Emily Colquitt, the sister of the lamented Senator Alfred Hold Colquitt. She was a women of rare qualities, but died many years ago. Later he married Miss Sallie Jeter, who survives him.

Colonel Carter lived most of his life on his plantation at Spring Place. He preferred rural simplicity to the exciting rush of the city. He had a temperament calm, steady, unperturbed. There was the tenderness of a woman in his manner, the softness of a little child in his nature. Had he sough political prestige he might have attained high reward, but he did not care to enter the struggle for honor. Professional life did not hold out to him what the inherent love of his nature craved. He was born to the southern manner. He was of the days when the planter was omnipotent. Before the war his door was open and the boundless hospitality of his home illustrated the true spirit of the south in a strong way.

When the war was over and the changed conditions came only in a general way did it have its effect upon Colonel Carter. He kept up his home with all the life and laughter of other days. He had about him his family of brilliant boys and beautiful girls. For years he kept up his ancestral estate with lordly munificence.

And his slaves–they did not leave him. It was true that they had been liberted by formal proclamation and were at choice to depart, but what happened only in a few southern home came there. Scarcely a slave left his service, and when they were informed that they were at liberty to do announced their attention to remain. The plantation was large, the system of cultivation changed. Farms were divided off and these loyal servants were place in charge of a designated number of acres. Many lived in the old quarter about the home place, and there was the courteous obeisance, the unshaken love, the peculiar pride of family which distinguished the old time darkies.

It was a personal love they had for their old master, and he loved them in return.

He looked after their wants, built their churches, attended their meetings at times and gave them all encouragement and aid.

Was it any wonder that when Colonel Carter was stricken several months ago those old slaves, some of them tottering with age, were as deeply grieved as if they were real members of the family. Was it any wonder that they watched over him with anxious devotion, eager to render the least assistance and vieing in the efforts to please?

When it was announced that there was no hope to the old slaves it was like the cutting away of their own support. They realized that the old life was at an end for them. They knew the days passed in idyllic peace, in reposeful calm were at an end; that the link which bound them to what they considered the most blissful period of their lives had been snapped. It was Sunday night when death came.

When the arrangements for the funeral exercises were under discussion a coterie of these old darkies requested the privilege of carrying the remains of their marster to the grave, and their request was granted. All the way the casket was carried in the arms of those old negroes, sobbing and swaying at every step.

The services at the grave were simple, and were conducted by Mr. Parsons, a neighboring minister who had know Colonel Carter for many years. He read the twelfth chapter of Romans, a favorite passage. Long after the ending of the services the old negroes remained at the grave, still sobbing and swaying. It was no great man who had gone, great in the sense of the usual acceptance, but he was greater than many who reach out after the plaudits of the public. He was a friend loyal and strong; he was a husband dutiful and considerate; he was a father with all of a father's indulgent love. It was with the family that was happier–his hearth stone was a shrine. Above all he was a southern gentleman, proud of the traditions of land an tenacious as to the principles of his country. It was the simple sincerity of his nature–his utter unselfishness which caused all to love him. This was why his old slaved cared not leave when until late in the night they sobbed and swayed for their old marster.

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