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MARKETS AND FARMING.
The negro population of Richmond gives to its streets a peculiarly picturesque and animated appearance. Colored faces predominate; but of these not more than one in five or six shows unmixed African blood ; and you are reminded less of an American city than of some town of Southern Europe. More than once I could have fancied myself in Naples, but that I looked in vain for the crowds of importunate beggars, and the dark-skinned lazzaroni lying all day in the sunshine on the street corners. I saw no cases of mendicancy among the colored people of Richmond, and very little idleness. The people found at work everywhere belonged to the despised race ; while the frequenters of bar-rooms, and loungers on tavern-steps, were white of skin. To get drunk, especially, appeared to be a prerogative of the chivalry.
The mules and curious vehicles one sees add to the picturesqueness of the streets. The market-carts are characteristically droll. A little way off you might fancy them dogcarts. Under their little ribbed canvas covers are carried little jags of such produce as the proprietor may have to sell, - a few cabbages, a few pecks of sweet potatoes, a pair of live chickens, tied together by the legs; a goose or a duck in a box, its head sticking out; with perhaps a few eggs and eggplants. These little carts, drawn by a mule or the poorest of ponies, have been driven perhaps a dozen or fifteen miles, bringing to market loads, a dozen of which would scarcely equal what a New-York farmer, or a New-England marketgardener often heaps upon a single wagon.
In the markets, business is transacted on the same petty scale. You see a great number of dealers, and extraordinary
SCENE IN THE MARKET.
throngs of purchasers, considering the little that appears to be sold. Not every producer has so much even as an antiquated mule-cart. Many come to market with what they can carry on their backs or in their hands. Yonder is an old negro with a turkey, which he has walked five miles to dispose of here. That woman with a basket of eggs, whose rags and sallow complexion show her to be one of the poor whites whom respectable colored people look down upon, has travelled, it may be, quite as far. Here comes a mulatto boy, with a string of rock-fish caught in the James. This old man has hard peaches in his bag ; and that other woman contributes a box of wild grapes.
People of all colors and all classes surround the sheds or press in throngs through the passages between the stalls. The fine lady, followed by her servant bearing a basket, has but little money; and although she endeavors to make it go as far as possible, it must be a small family that can subsist until Monday upon what she carries away. There is little money to be seen anywhere; in which respect these scenes are very different from those witnessed during the last years of Confederate rule, when it was said that people went to market with baskets to carry their money, and wallets to bring home what it would buy. The markets are not kept open during the evening, and as the hour for closing them arrives, the bargaining and loud talking grow more and more vivacious, while prices decline. I remember one fellow who jumped upon his table, and made a speech, designed to attract the patronage of the freedmen.
“ Walk up hyer, and buy cheap!” he shouted. “I don't say niggers ; I say ladies and gentlemen. Niggers is played out; they 're colored people now, and as good as anybody.”
The markets indicate the agricultural enterprise of a community. Yet, even after seeing those of Richmond, I was amazed at the petty and shiftless system of farming I witnessed around the city. I was told that it was not much better before the war. The thrifty vegetable gardens of the North, producing two or three crops a year; the long rows of hot-beds by the fences, starting cucumbers and supplying the market with greens sometimes before the snow is gone, - such things are scarcely known in the capital of Virginia. “We have lettuce but a month or two in the year,” said a lady, who was surprised to learn how Northern gardeners managed to produce it in and out of season.
In one of my rides I passed the place of a Jersey farmer, about three miles from the city. It looked like an oasis in the desert. I took pains to make the proprietor's acquaintance, and learn his experience.
“I came here and bought in '59 one hundred and twentyseven acres for four thousand dollars. The first thing I did was to build that barn. Everybody laughed at me. The most of the farms have no barns at all ; and such a large one was a wonder, – it must have been built by a fool or a crazy man. This year I have that barn full to the rafters.
“I found the land worn out, like nearly all the land in the country. The way Virginia folks have spoilt their farms looks a good deal more like fools or crazy men than my barn. First, if there was timber, they burnt it off and put a good coat of ashes on the soil. Then they raised tobacco three or four years. Then corn, till the soil got run out and they could n't raise anything. Then they went to putting on guano, which was like giving rum to an exhausted man ; it just stimulated the soil till all the strength there was left was burnt out. That was the condition of my farm when I came here.
“ The first thing I did, I went to hauling out manure from Richmond. I was laughed at for that too. The way people do here, they throw away their manure. They like to have their farm-yards high and dry ; so they place them on the side of a hill, where every rain washes them, and carries off into the streams the juices that ought to be saved for the land. They left their straws-tacks any number of years, then drew the straw out on the farms dry. I made my barn-yard in a hollow, and rotted the straw in it. Now I go to market every day with a big Jersey farm-wagon loaded down with stuff.”
He had been getting rich, notwithstanding the war. I asked what labor he employed.
“Negro labor mostly. It was hard to get any other here. I did n't own slaves, but hired them of their masters. Only the poorest hands were usually hired out in that way; I could seldom get first-class hands; yet I always found that by kind treatment and encouragement I could make very good laborers of those I had. I get along still better with them now they are free.”
“Do you use horses ?”
“No; mules altogether. Two mules are equal to three horses. Mules are not subject to half the diseases horses are. They eat less, and wear twice as long."
I found farms of every description for sale, around Richmond. The best land on the James River Bottom could be bought at prices varying from forty to one hundred dollars an acre. I remember one very desirable estate, of eight hundred acres, lying on the river, three miles from the city, which was offered for sixty dollars. There were good buildings on it and the owner was making fences of old telegraph wire, to replace those destroyed during the war.
IN AND AROUND RICHMOND.
IF temples are a token of godliness, Richmond should be a holy city. It has great pride in its churches; two of which are noteworthy.
The first is St. John's Church, on Church Hill, — a large, square-looking wooden meeting-house, whose ancient walls and rafters once witnessed a famous scene, and reëchoed words that have become historical. Here was delivered Patrick Henry's celebrated speech, since spouted by every schoolboy, -“Give me liberty or give me death !” Those shining sentences still hang like a necklace on the breast of American Liberty. The old meeting-house stands where it stood, overlooking the same earth and the same beautiful stream. But the men of that age lie buried in the dust of these old crowded church-yards; and of late one might almost have said that the wisdom of Virginia lay buried with them.
On the corner of Grace Street, opposite my hotel, I looked out every morning upon the composite columns and pilasters, and spire clean as a stiletto, of St. Paul's Church, with which are connected very different associations. This is the church, and (if you enter) yonder is the pew, in which Jeff Davis sat on Sundays, and heard the gospel of Christ interpreted from the slave-owners' point of view. Here he sat on that memorable Sabbath when Lee's dispatch was handed in to him, saying that Richmond was lost. The same preacher who preached on that day, still propounds his doctrines from the desk. The same sexton who handed in the dispatch glances at you, and, if you are well dressed, offers you a seat in a good place. The same white congregation that arose then in confusion and dismay, on seeing the President go out, sit