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Edward Lycurgas

(Slave interview with Pearl Randolph Jacksonville FL WPA Dec 5, 1936)

 


Edward Lycurgas was born on Oct 28, 1872 at St Augustine Fl shortly after the return of the family from the West Indies. He lived on his father's farm sharing at an early age the hard work that seemed always in abundance, and listening in awe to the stories of the recent war. he heard his elders give thanks for their freedom when they attended church and wondered what it was all about.

 

No one failed to attend church on Sundays and all work ceased in the vicinity where a camp meeting was held. Farmers flocked to the meeting from all parts of St Johns County. They brought food in their large baskets. Some owned buggies but most of them hauled their families in wagons or walked. The camp meetings would sometimes last for several days according to the spiritual fervor exhibited by those attending.

 

Lycurgas recalls the stirring sermons and spirituals that rang through the woods and could be heard for several miles on a clear day. And the river baptisms! These climaxed the meetings and were attended by large crowds of whites in the neighborhood. All candidates were dressed in white gowns, stockings and towels wound about their heads bandana fashion. Two by two they marched some stirring song to accompany their slow march to the river. "Take me to the water to be baptized" was the favorite spiritual for this occasion.

 

As in all things, some attended camp meetings for the opportunity it afforded them to indulge in illicit lovemaking. Others went to show their finery and there was plenty of it according to Lycurgas' statement. There seemed to be beautiful clothing, fine teams and buggies everywhere - a sort of reaction from the restraint upon them in slavery. Many wore clothing they could not afford.

 

There seemed to be a deeper interest in politics during these times. Mass meetings, engineered by "carpetbaggers" were often held and largely attended, although the father of Edward did not hold with these activities very much. He often heard the preacher point out Negroes who attended the meetings and attained prominence in politics as an example for members of his flock to follow. He believes he recalls hearing the name of Joseph Gibbs.

 

Next to the preacher, the Negro school teacher was held in greatest respect. Until the year of the "shake"" (earthquake of 1886) there were no Negro school teachers in St Johns County and no school buildings. They attended classes at the fort and were taught by a white woman who had come from "up nawth" for this purpose. Edward was able to learn very little from his blue back Webster because his help was needed on the farm.

 

He was a lover of home, very shy and did not care much for courting. He remained with his parents until their deaths and did not leave the vicinity for many years. He is still unmarried and resides at the Clara White Mission, Jacksonville, FL, where he receives a small salary for the piddling jobs about the place that he is able to do.