Robert Davis Yancey in the Post-Civil War Era


Told by Rebecca Yancey Williams in "The Vanishing Virginian", pages 63,76-77, 128-129.

When my father [Robert Davis Yancey 1855-1931] was a boy there had been enough servants, who of course were never called slaves, to smooth out all the bumps of life for him. Even after the war, a good many of them stayed with Grandma and Grandpa. My father, therefore, grew up to think that life owed him a smooth road to travel. By the time Father got married, a number of these old colored people had gone to their reward, and he thought it was Mother's business to see that everything went along for him like oiled machinery.

. . . During it's early history, Lynchburg [Virginia], had been the largest dark-leaf tobacco market in the world, and so it made a comparatively quick recovery after the War Between the States. In fact, right after the war, my grandfather was not so totally poverty-stricken, as were most Southern people, since he was a lawyer, and his whole income had never been dependent upon a plantation. He was poor, of course. At that time, in the South, it was a disgrace for anyone to have money. It meant only one thing. But Grandpa, on account of his profession, was not absolutely cut loose from all moorings, and I suppose that is one reason why Father always took so much for granted. In a generation which was drenched in poverty, he had enjoyed some few ante-bellum luxuries.

It was only about ten years after General Lee's surrender at nearby Appotomax when Father went to the University of Virginia. Yet, even so soon after the war, he took with him his colored man, Sam. In those days the likes of Sam were called "body servants" and as far as I can make out from various conversations overheard, Sam's main duties were to take care of Father's clothes and horse and to steer him safely back to his room if he happened to get plastered.