I was little but I soon learned to make lye soap. We put up the hopper. That meant hanging up strong ash wood and hickory ashes in a bag that was wet, so the lye would drip down into a box where soap was made. When a hopper was made, it was in a V shape, with a trough underneath for the drippings. To make soap you have to have pork grease. When the moon got right, the grease was boiled off the bones and put in the lye that had dripped from the wood ashes. Then it was cooked into soap. Soap was made on the increase of the moon, and only a sassafras stick was used for stirring. The soap maker stirred all the time. If the soap was too strong when you took a bath, your skin would come off. Hard soap was used for washing, and soft soap for clothes. Another think we did with lye was to shell corn and put the grains in lye and clean it. When it came white, we called it "hominy.
Eison Lyles Plantation Newberry, S.C.
The above slave narrative is an edited transcript from an interview with Eison Lyles of Newberry, South Carolina. This transcript is part of a compilation edited by Nancy Rhyne and published in 1999 by Sandlapper Publishing Company, Inc. The suggested citation for this source is: Rhyne, Nancy, ed. Voices of Carolina Slave Children. (Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Publishing Company, Inc., 1999), 100. The original transcript of this narrative and others can be found in the collection of the Federal Writer's Project, United States Work Projects Administration (USWPA); Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. For additional information about the WPA Slave Narratives, click here to access a digital collection from American Memory called Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938.Return to Ash Hopper