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H-South is offering an occasional series focused on research in Southern history topics. We begin with historian David Patterson who has agreed to open a discussion that stems from our recent thread about slavery and the slave trade. Patterson's Upson County, GA project offers insight into his historical process and a contemporary snapshot of research into the nature of the "South" and American slavery. Scholars studying slavery are especially encouraged to join this discussion. Scholars interested in sharing their research experience are encouraged to submit proposals to the H-South editors. David Patterson writes: My project to examine Upson County society through slavery and Reconstruction began in 1994 as a simplistic response to the anonymity of the 1850 and 1860 Census Schedules 2 (Slave Inhabitants); I wanted to demonstrate the extent to which someone could construct a surrogate for the censuses, naming every slave who had ever lived in Upson County. Genealogists and local historians make constant and productive use censuses to find data about individual free people, but many plead that the enslaved are unfortunately unknowable. Perhaps in part as habit learned from anonymous slave censuses, professional historians have not been guiltless of a tendency to insist on a collective, statistical approach to slaves - perhaps most famously, where the WPA interviews offered 2,000 individual life-stories, George P. Rawick chose to publish them under the title, _The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography_, as if each person's narrative was subordinate to a single, overarching slave experience! My research method has no pretense at elegance: I simply read every page of every surviving court record - and most of the loose papers - making a summary extract of every mention of every slave and slave master. Records have included deeds, mortgages, probate, writs and declarations, civil and criminal minutes, interrogatories, executions (fieri facia, not death penalties!), and coroners' inquests. Post-war county records that reflected back to slavery include indentures of apprenticeship and marriage records. I incorporated evidence from private and archival sources: family papers, family Bibles, church minutes, business records, and newspapers. Finally, I merged data from federal archival sources, including the Southern Claims Commission, Freedmen's Bureau, and USCT pension applications. Beyond slaves and slavery, I copied anything that significantly illuminated events, processes, or the lives of any residents. As I accumulated extracts of records, individual mini-biographies began to emerge. Some slaves were mentioned only once in all the documentary evidence, but some appeared several times; at 32 mentions by name, Gaines (slave of Travis A. D. Weaver) was the most-documented slave in Upson County. Surprisingly, most ex-slaves who appear prominently in the post-war records of Reconstruction political and social life are usefully documented in pre-1865 records; for example, George Cary appeared twenty times in nine different kinds of records, and Guilford Speer appeared nine times in four different record series. Documentation of the same persons in different kinds of records offered opportunity to make analyses that could not be supported by each type of record alone; for example, church records do not record members' ages, but property records record the ages of many enslaved church members. The slaves and slave masters database gave me background histories for slaves and masters who were subjects, witnesses or defendants in criminal trials and civil suits. Perhaps most important, I can associate specific freedpeople in the events of Reconstruction within the context of their enslaved past, which might in some cases suggest interpretations of their actions. While the backbone of my evidence is a compiled database containing about 2,000 slave masters (including owners and hirers) and 5,000 slaves, much of the most powerful evidentiary muscle comes from unrecorded court papers. Georgia law did not require certain types of records to be transcribed into books, and they are found only in the loose papers of Superior and Inferior court (as discussed at http://www.afrigeneas.com/library/slaves_georgia.html ). Primary among these are Interrogatories and Answers, containing a surprising amount of narrated testimony and anecdotal details about all classes of society, male and female: free persons of color, skilled slaves, field hands, planters, yeoman farmers, doctors, lawyers, artisans, shopkeepers and poor white laborers. As an indication of quantity of evidence that may be found in a Georgia courthouse, Upson county yielded material for 39 single-space-typed pages (22,000 words) of statements from Answers to Interrogatories related to slavery, slaves, and slave masters from 1825-1865. The subject of slave trading in Upson County emerged as one topic for which the evidence is particularly rich. In order of importance, my evidence for the trade came from: -- Interrogatories and Answers from miscellaneous cases -- Record of testimony a case appealed to the state supreme court ca. 1853 (James M. Hightower, Jr., John J. Cary, Guardian ad litem of Thomas N. Pitts et al. vs. James M. Hightower and Daniel Hightower, Executors of James Hightower, deceased; Caviat on the appeal in the Upson Superior Court [printed transcript of testimony]) -- Civil suits concerning slave purchases -- Probate records (all types, but especially annual returns and records of sales) -- Lewis W. Paine, _Six Years in a Georgia Prison_ (New York, 1851); the narrative of a northern textile mechanic who lived in Upson County from 1841 to 1845. -- US veterans' pension applications; statements of about 30 claimants formerly resident as slaves in Upson County who served in USCT. A standard question on the application asked for the names of all previous owners; narrative statements often describe the sale transactions and identify specific traders. This evidence vividly demonstrates the frequency of slave-trade origins among Upson County residents on the eve of the Civil War. -- Two private collections of letters that provide insights into paternalism vs financial considerations in slave sales by a yeoman farm family and a slaveowning politician's family. Calvin Schermerhorn asks whether a place like Upson County challenges historians' categories of an "Upper South" and a "Lower South." Comparing and contrasting opposites is a useful device that allows us to characterize the extremes of a scale, as long as we acknowledge that a graduated scale includes infinite intermediate places - and that, unlike linear scales with two ends, three-dimensional geography may require at least a two-dimensional plot to describe its variations. William Freehling's argument that there were many different "Souths" rings as true to me for the slave trade as for slavery politics. The middle spaces of a geographic continuum are akin to David Goldfield's characterization of the range of possibilities between cities and plantations as "shallow urban development" and "urbanization without cities" - neither one extreme nor the other. 1 An upcountry, backwoods Georgia county, whose only antebellum claim to fame is as the birthplace of Gen. John B. Gordon, might seem unlikely locale for a Southern history, especially one that hopes to tell the stories of slaves with as much detail as those of free inhabitants, but I chose Upson County, Georgia, solely for convenience, because I lived there when I began the project, and out of ignorance, because I did not then realize the challenges! Among frustrating facts to overcome in studying the people of antebellum Georgia, the state never required that slave bills of sale be recorded; therefore, the only significant systematic record of sales is in probate of estates. The target audiences for my county study will include anyone interested in exploring the histories of people who lived in Upson County, Georgia, during that county's first half century, and historians who might be interested in an up-country county in the cotton belt, as counter-poise to the numerous studies of low country counties. By its nature, this study gives me opportunity to employ a powerful historical magnifying glass on a local part of the Old South, in which individual southerners from all ranks in life, most of whom may necessarily be represented by composites or statistics in broader regional histories, will, to varying degrees, be more visible in microcosm. As a public historian working outside the academy, I cannot overestimate the value of H-Slavery in giving me opportunity to engage in current dialog with others. David E Paterson Norfolk VA 1. William W Freehling, _The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854_ (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 13-36; David R. Goldfield, _Cotton fields and Skyscrapers: Southern City and region, 1607-1980_ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Sate University Press, 1982), 25, 32. ___________________________________ David Herr H-South Editor St. Andrews Presbyterian College Laurinburg, NC