George William Cooper, b.2 Aug 1817, d.6 Apr 1875, was my great great grandfather. At the end of the War when these Freedman Contracts were executed, George William Cooper owned three plantations. The first was the home of his father Capt. George Cooper, b. 3 Apr 1759, d. 20 Jul 1829. This home, known to the family as "Rollindale" was located a few miles from Salem Black River Church (Brick Church) near the present day intersection of SC-527 and I-95, just south of US-378. Old letters are addressed to Mayesville. The second home known to the family as "Araba" was the summer home, where the family escaped the mosquitos and malaria of the more swampy plantation. This home was in (west of) Wisacky, near McCutchens Crossroads. This home and a grist mill were on land attached to the main working plantation known as Mt. Zion in the 1866 Freedman Contract. In Capt. George Cooper's lifetime this was a small second plantation near Mt. Zion church in Old Salem. As George Wm. Cooper was only 12 years old when his father died, the executors of Capt. George Cooper's estate purchased in 1831 from Robert Commander land adjoining the small Mt. Zion tract, for the express purpose of more fully utilizing the personal estate of Capt. George Cooper, i.e., the 103 slaves which were far more than necessary to work the original two plantations.
At the time of the Freedman contracts Mt. Zion plantation consisted of over 3400 acres. Although the family was most closely associated with Brick Church and most burials continued to be there, Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church was where Rob Cooper, grandson of George Wm. Cooper, and his wife Harvie Cooper attended services from 1909-1966. Harvie Cooper was organist at this Church for 50+ years. The third home owned by George Wm. Cooper was "Millwood" in Wisacky, just across (east of) the Cooper Millpond from "Araba". George Wm. Cooper was married at "Millwood Plantation" in 1839, then the home of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Scott and her mother Margaret Montgomery Scott. Although, all of the property was eventually owned by George Wm. Cooper, he deeded back to his mother-in-law, Margaret Scott, in 1846, the house known as "Millwood" and 60+ surrounding acres for the rest of her natural life. My great great great grandmother Margaret Scott died in 1864, so at the end of the War, George Wm. Cooper owned all three houses and plantations. This farm known as "Millwood" is the same as referenced in the 1924 Tornado Letter (see Old Sumter District Letter's Home), that is why I believe it possible that the former slave "Old Daniel Scott" mentioned there is perhaps the same Daniel listed in the 1865 Freedman Contract.
Both the 1865 and 1866 Contracts were found after the death of Rob Cooper in 1966 in his desk at his home "Millwood". The desk and the home were originally his father's, Robert Muldrow Cooper, Sr., son of George Wm. Cooper. Robt.M.Cooper, Sr.'s mother was Mary Elizabeth Scott.
I believe, but cannot yet prove that the 1865 Freedman Contract lists all the Freedmen and Women at all three of George Wm. Cooper's plantations. This document was the first, drawn up after the war, to cover the period September, 1865 until January 1st, 1866. It is completely handwritten. The second, more formal and printed document, covers the next working year, January 1st, 1866 until January 1st, 1867.
There are 128 names on the first contract and only 53 on the second. There are at least a couple of possible explanations. One may be that almost 2/3 of the new freedmen and women decided to leave the plantations the winter of 1866 after receiving their division of crops and by this time fully aware of their new freedom. This seems the most likely. Another possibility, is that the 2nd document, signed at Mt. Zion Plantation included ONLY the names of laborers at that particular plantation adjacent to the home "Araba". There may have been other contracts for "Millwood" and "Rollindale". but because "Millwood" had far fewer acres in cultivation and "Rollindale" was the primary residence but only a small working plantation I don't really feel that they would have accounted for very many of the missing names.
Other than the historical interest, it is my hope that these documents may aid African-American family researchers. Questions may be directed to me at: [email protected]
The said freedmen and women agree that they will work on the plantation of the said Geo. W. Cooper as laborers until the final day of January next; that they will perform diligently, faithfully, and promptly all work required of them in any way connected with the said plantation, or the crops thereon, and all such work as they have been accustomed; that they will be respectful and obedient to the said Geo. W. Cooper, his family, and overseer or agent; that they will not bring or use on the said plantation any spirituous liguors, firearms, or other dangerous weapons; that they will not leave the said plantation, entertain company on the same, or bring theron, without permission of the said Geo. W. Cooper or his agent or overseer, stock of any description, or dogs. All animals entrusted ot them shall be carefully tended, regularly fed, and prudently worked and cared for. They shall not misuse any of the plantation tools, Agricultural Implements, Carts, or Wagons; they will give up, at the expiration of this contract, all Tools, &tc, belonging to the plantation, and in case any property of any description belonging to the plantation shall be wilfully or through negligence destroyed or injured, the value of the articles so destroyed shall be deducted from the portion of the crops which the person or persons, so offending, shall be entitled to receive under this Contract. The said Geo.W. Cooper agrees on his part; in consideration of the above, that he will furnish to the said (as also to [END OF PAGE ONE]
the infirm and children on the said plantation) the usual amount of clothing, breadstuffs, and other rations; that he will allow them the use of the houses, gardens, and separate crops, they now have, free of charge, and to raise the poultry and hogs they now have, at their own expense, during, the continuance of this Contract. He further agrees, that, after deducting [LINED OUT: seed corn and peas],seventyfive bushels of corn for each horse and mule employed in the crop this year, [LINED OUT: and bills for usual medical attention on the plantation,] he will give them to be divided amongst them in equitable proportion on the first day of January next one half[one half WAS WRITTEN WITH DIFFERENT INK AND HAND] of the corn, peas, potatoes, and syrup raised on said plantation this year, and not consumed thereon before the first day of January next. It is hereby stipulated that the value of any article proved to be stolen, or carelessly or wilfully injured or lost by any freedman or woman, shall be deducted from his or her share of the crop; that all lost time shall be deducted from the share of the one so in default; that if any freedman or woman shall without sufficient cause be absent from work, or shall fail or refuse to perform the same when required, he or she shall forfeit so much of his or her share of the Crop as shall be determined by proper authority, to the Said Geo. W. Cooper; and that the said freedmen and women shall be in all repects of good behavior, and for any misconduct shall be liable to such punishment as shall be provided by proper authority. [THE FOLLOWING ADDED WITH DIFFERENT INK AND HAND]: and Deviation from the constitions of this contract upon the part of the said Geo W Cooper or his agent or Agents shall be Determined by a Provost Court or a military commission this agreement to continue untill the first of January 1866 [END OF PAGE TWO]
[THE FOLLOWING NAMES ARE LISTED IN THREE COLUMNS, WITH THE NAME FIRST AND IMMEDIATELY TO THE RIGHT THE WORD "HIS" AND UNDER "HIS" THE WORD "MARK" WITH THE MARK, USUALLY AN X OR + BETWEEN "HIS" AND "MARK". I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE "O" PREFIX MEANS IN THE CASE OF DUPLICATE NAMES, BUT I HAVE ASSUMED FOR NOW THAT THE "O" MEANS OLD IN THE CASE OF FATHER-SON OR MOTHER DAUGHTER. THE NUMBER  FOLLOWING THE NAME IS NOT PART OF THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT BUT IS A GUIDE TO THE ORDER LISTED OF THE SAME PERSON IN THE 1866 CONTRACT OF MT ZION PLANTATION 4 MONTHS LATER. THIS MAY GIVE SOME INDICATION OF FAMILY GROUPS. OUR FAMILY TRADITION SAYS THAT SLAVE FAMILIES HAD NOT BEEN SEPARATED, BUT WERE TOGETHER ON THE SAME PLANTATION]
1st: The said Freedmen agree to hire their time as laborers on the Plantation of Geo.. W. .Cooper from the 1st of January, 1866 to the 1st of January, 1867, to conduct themselves faithfully, honestly, civilly and diligently, to perform all labor on said plantation, or such as--may be connected therewith, that may be required by the said Geo..W..Cooper or his agent, and to keep no poultry, dogs or stock of any kind, except as hereafter specified, no firearms or deadly weapons, no ardent spirits, nor introduce or invite visitors, nor leave the premises during working hours, without the written consent of the proprietor or his agent.
2nd: The said Freedmen agree to perform the daily tasks hitherto usually allotted on said plantation, to wit: [LINED OUT: 125 to 150](WRITTEN IN: of]rails; cutting grain, [LINED OUT: 3 to 6 acres], ditching and banking, 300 to 600 feet; hoeing cotton, [LINED OUT:70 to 300 rows, an acre long]; corn, [WRITTEN IN: &c.][LINED OUT: 4000 TO 7000 hills]. In all cases where tasks cannot be assigned they agree to labor diligently 10 hours a day.
3rd: For every day's labor lost by absence, refusal or neglect to perform the daily task or labor, said servants shall forfeit 50 cents. If absent voluntarily or without leave, 2 dollars a day. If absent more than one day without leave, to be subject to dismissal from the plantation, and forfeiture of share in the crop. All such fines and forfeitures shall inure to the benefit of the employer [LINED OUT: and employees, in proportion to their relative shares].
4th: Said Freedmen agree to take good care of all utensils, tools and implements committed to their charge, and to pay for the same if injured or destroyed, also to be kind and gentle to all work animals under their charge and to pay for any injury which they may sustain while in their hands through their carelessness or neglect.[UNDERLINED BY HAND: 5th: They stipulate to keep their houses, lots and persons in neat condition, subject to the] inspection of the employer or his agent at any time.
6th: (They agree to furnish from their number a nurse for the sick, also stock minder and foreman to be selected by the employer.) They agree to be directed in their labor by the foreman, to obey his orders, and that he shall report all absences, neglects, refusal to work, or disorderly conduct to the employer or his agent.
7th: Said employer agrees to treat his employees with justice and kindness to furnish each family with quarters on his plantation, with one [WRITTEN IN: acre] [LINED OUT] quarter of an] acre of land for a garden,[WRITTEN IN:&c.] and the priilege of getting firewood from some portion of the premises, to be indicated by the employer, (and to divide the crop with them in the following proportions, viz: To the employees, one third of the corn, potatoes and peas, [WRITTEN IN: & fodder]gathered and prepared for market, and one third net proceeds of the ginned cotton, or its market value at the end of the year.) [LINED OUT: When desired to furnish the usual bread and meat ration, to be accounted for at the market price, out of their share of the crop.]
8th: Said employer agrees to furnish animals and to feed them; also wagons, carts, plantation implements, &c., such as cannot be made by the laborers on the plantation.
9th: All violations of the terms of this contract, or of the rules and regulations of the employer may be punished by dismissal from the plantation, with forfeiture of his or her share of the crop or wages,as the ease may be; but the employer shall pay said parties at the rate of four (4) dollars a month, for full hands, deducting threfrom advances made.
10th: The employer or his agent shall keep a book, in which shall be entered all advances made by him and fines and forfeitures for loss time, or any cause, which book shall be received as evidence in same manner as Merchant's books are now received in Courts of justice, and shall have a right to deduct from the share of each laborer all his or her fines and forfeitures, also, all advances made by him. All fines and forfeitures herein specified will be subject to the decision of the authorities having proper jurisdiction of the same.
11th: The laborer shall not sell any agricultural product to any person whatever without, the written consent of the employer, until after the division of crops.
12th: The laborers shall commence work at sunrise, and be allowed from one to three hours each day for their meals, acording to the season of the year.
[THE FOLLOWING NAMES APPEAR IN TWO COLUMNS: THE NAME FOLLOWED BY A NUMBER, I BELIEVE REPRESENTING FULL OR LESS THAN FULL HAND (1=FULL 1/2=HALF, AS IN CHILD OR ELDERLY) - FOLLOWING TO THE RIGHT OF THE NAME: "his mark" WITH THE MARK AN X OR + BETWEEN THE "his" AND "mark". I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE "L" AND "O" PREFIX MEAN IN THE CASE OF DUPLICATE NAMES, BUT I HAVE ASSUMED FOR NOW THAT THE "O" MEANS OLD IN THE CASE OF FATHER-SON OR MOTHER DAUGHTER]