Early Manhood

Early Manhood


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan

A Story of Conjure

 By F. Roy Johnson

   Conjuring & Doctoring




Early Manhood

Jim Jordan rose to manhood with the first literate generation that followed the Civil War. He had been among the first children to attend the new colored free school that opened in the late 1870’s.

Exposure to the ex-slaves and their old masters, now growing fewer in number, gave him an intimate understanding of ante-bellum customs and beliefs.

New conditions and events began to appear on the horizon. The economy struggled for improvement as the cotton and bacon era drew to a close; railroads, automobiles and highways came slowly. Jim changed with the changing conditions, the speed up in communications; lived a life of many dimensions; but was as up-to-date in his ideas and business in his mature years as when he was young.

Like his share-cropper father he was muscular and essentially a farmer at heart; but after harvest he found work with logging operators and saw mills. His normal work week was until Saturday noon; and during the weekend he courted the girls, drank intoxicating liquors, and sported around with other young men.

He was especially fond of children from early manhood to old age; pampered and played with them all his life.

In the 1890’s he’d “cut dat leg aroun’ ” and dance with the younger sisters.

ABOUT 1890 Jim and his younger brother Paul made several visits to their Uncle Allen and his two sons, Jim and Carey, fifteen miles away at Menola. He became interested in his uncle’s conjure practice; began to bring patients to him for treatment. The uncle reciprocated, taught Jim and Paul how to read the cards and mix up herbs to control the spirits. Jim persisted while Paul soon lost interest. Jim continued to visit his Uncle Allen occasionally during the following twenty years. Jim Vaughan says his cousin made his professional visits at night when other people were asleep; for conjure doctors took great care to guard their secrets.

Jim’s early work appears to have been limited and profited little more than to command greater awe-inspired respect from others.

JIM AND HIS BROTHERS continued to work with their father several years after they reached manhood. J. J. Jordan of Winton had bought the 450-acre B. T. Spiers Quarters from H. McD. Spiers in 1888, and made his old friend Isaac overseer of the 16-horse farm. The Jordan family moved into the six-room Great House.

Isaac proved a good overseer, and Jim undoubtedly profited by his father’s example; for in later years he was assigned positions of responsibility.

MAYOR RICHARD JORDAN of Winton as a boy often rode with his father to visit the farm. He admired Isaac as a man with “a good heart and intelligent face.” He was of “ginger cake color, stood about five-feet-nine, weighed about 180 pounds, had a round belly, dressed well in his wife’s homespuns and carried himself with dignity.”

HARRIET, the wife and mother, in the meantime, was industrious. When time from other tasks would permit she set to work spinning and weaving. She spun her thread and wove her cloth many years after other people were “buying out of the stores.” She too pride in her handwork and sought to make her materials look better and wear longer than the store-bought goods. She went to the creek for green moss to make a dark green dye, cut the bark from the sweet gum tree for purple, and bought copperas from the store for light green. She mixed colors for shades she wished, dyed her thread and wove it into a variety of patterns. These were usually checks of varying sizes and colors.

JIM WAS ENJOYING a carefree life. Whiskey was still flowing for him and his friends from taps of licensed bar rooms in Murfreesboro and Winton. The large apple orchard on the Taylor farm north of Como was providing stocks of brandy.

Jim put off marriage until he was 28. Strong drink delayed the ceremony three months. It also almost cost him his life.

By 1899 Hertford County had ceased licensing private bar rooms and established instead a dispensary bar at the county seat in Winton. So December 24, Christmas Eve 1899, Jim hitched his dapple gray horse Bragg to the buggy; took his brother Paul and neighbors Deleware Hoskie and Rufus Percy to Winton.

All liquored freely before leaving town. Two miles homeward by way of Parker’s Ferry at the Hollow Bridge Jim and Rufus engaged in a fight. Rufus pulled a knife and slashed a deep wound in Jim’s neck barely missing the jugular vein.

Paul rushed his injured brother home to Spiers’ Quarters; startled the family in the middle of the night as he cried, “Come here, come her; Rufus has cut Jim to death.”

Mother Harriet looked at the wound and knew what to do. She sheared the fur from her husband’s best hat, mixed it with spider webs and packed the gash to stop the bleeding. Dr. William G. Freeman of Murfreesboro came next morning, admired her work, and stitched up her son’s wound.

Jim had lost so much blood he lingered near death several days. Percy grew afraid and fled to South Carolina.

JIM COULD NO LONGER SING as well as the other young people after h is neck had healed. He now turned from a carefree to the quiet and solemn man later generations remember.

He and Cleveland Cooper’s daughter Adell had planned to marry during the 1899 Christmas holidays. The rites were delayed until March 29, 1900, with Preacher William Reid, pastor Mill Neck Baptist Church, officiating. Jim listed his age on the marriage license as 24 while he was 28, and his bride gave hers as 19.

Source: F. Roy Johnson • The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan • © Copyright 1963 •Johnson Publishing Co.• Murfreesboro, N. C.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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update 23 June 2008



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Related File: Conjuring & Doctoring

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