Days Gone By - stories from the past

Gee’s Bend, Wilcox County, originally part of the abandoned Pettway Plantation, was isolated in 1937

Gee’s Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama was originally a Plantation.  “The plantation was started by Joseph Gee and passed to his nephews Sterling and Charles Gee upon his death, along with 47 slaves. The brothers then sold it to their relative Mark H. Pettway in 1845 to settle a $29,000 debt. About a year later, the Pettway family moved from North Carolina to Gee’s Bend, bringing about one hundred slaves with them. When slavery was abolished many of them continued working for the Pettways as sharecroppers. Many of the black tenants Arthur Rothstein photographed were named Pettway. The white Pettway family owned the property until 1895, when it was sold to Adrian Sebastian Van de Graaff. Van de Graaff, a lawyer from Tuscaloosa, then operated it as an absentee landlord.


The community was isolated

The Resettlement Administration reports of the 1930s emphasized the isolation of the community, describing the unreliable ferry that approached from the east and the muddy road that entered from the west. The community had received public assistance from the Red Cross in 1932 and federal and state aid in 1933 and 1934. Beginning in 1935, the Resettlement Administration made agricultural loans and offered farm and home management advice. In 1937, the average rural rehabilitation loan to Gee’s Bend families was $353.41, and the agency reports speak of possible cooperative undertakings; a building campaign for houses, barns, a schoolhouse, and a sawmill. Residents were also encouraged to replace oxen with more efficient mules. As of the 2010 census, Gee’s Bends, Wilcox County, Alabama population was 275.

Pettway girl Gee's Bend

Pettway cabins on the plantation in 1937

Plowing at Gee’s Bend 1937

Plowing at Gee's Bend 1937

School was conducted in the church in 1937

going to school in church 1937

school in church 1937

Children at Gee’s Bend in 1937

Children at Gee's Bend in 1937

Footpaths across the fields connected the cabins in 1937

Footpaths across the fields connected the cabins in 1937

Two ladies at Gee’s Bend in 1937

Two ladies at Gee's Bend in 1937

Splitting wood at Gee’s Bend in 1937

Splitting wood at Gee's Bend in 1937

Two boys at Gee’s Bend in 1937

Two boys at Gee's Bend in 1937

Pat Bendolph, Tenant farmer at Gee’s Bend 1937

Pat Bendolph tenant

John Henry Miller who was the foreman lived in the Pettway Plantation house with his family (below) in 1937

 

pettaway manison woman

Pettaway manison interior3

 

Descendants of former slaves of the Pettway Plantation in 1937

descendants of slaves

Ladies at Gee's Bend 1937

Descendant of Pettway slave Gee's Bend

Below Jennie Pettway and another girl with the quilter Jorena Pettway in 1937 – Today, Gee’s Bend Quilts are known world-wide and are even exhibited in the Smithsonian – Read more about their success in The Quilts of Gee’s Bend and see their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/QuiltsofGeesBend/

sewing a quilt 1937

See more photographs of Gees Bend

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS: Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories  is a collection of lost and forgotten stories of the first surveyors, traders, and early settlements of what would become the future state of Alabama.

See all books by Donna R. Causey

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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2 comments

  1. My Grandfather was from Mobile his name was Finest Pettway and he and my mother Juanita Pettway always talked about home I am dying to see it with my own eyes. Maybe this year I hope.

  2. […] A few stops on the tour this year will include The Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum, the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and several other historic landmarks and sites including a former slave plantation. […]

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