Soil is so beautiful in all its colors. Soil is so full of life. Here it represented death, tragedy, genocide.
At the memorial, I hoped not to find Tattnall County, Georgia, the county in which I have purchased a farm and where I have lived for a decade. I hoped this county had not participated.
Five years ago I began to volunteer at my county’s Archives. There is a strange air about the Archives. There are stories trying to get free – stories of deeds and misdeeds, understandings and misunderstandings.
The Archives is located in the old jail downtown, built sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. In the northwest corner of the downstairs, set in the ceiling, is a trap door made of metal, three feet square. The door opens at the center with a lever, as if to pour the contents of the upstairs into the cool air of the downstairs. Upstairs there is no sign of a trap door because the floor has been covered in particle board painted gray.
When you first look at that strange contraption set in the ceiling, within sight of the downstairs cells, you don't understand what it is. Then the horror begins to dawn on you. Your mind is flooded with questions -- how many people died here? Who were they? Were they allowed trials, testimonies, juries, appeals, truth? Were other inmates watching?
No records that we have found show definitely that the trap door was used. But sometimes, working late at the records, one begins to hear noises in the repository, low voices and small bangs. Once a university intern heard the sound of chains. I did not disbelieve her, although I know how easy it is to hear people standing outside talking or for passing cars to throw rocks against the brick walls.
At the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, there is a block for Tattnall County. I hated to find it. On the face of Tattnall's block are five names. Four of them are from one date, May 21, 1907, with the same surname: Dosia Padgett, Sam Padgett, Sula Padgett, and Willard Padgett. I want to find out what happened. I want to find where. I want to go there and and gather soil.