Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Delmarva Folklife Project: Interview with Rachel Logan, 12 December 1997

Audio Recording

About This Recording

This interview was conducted with Rachel Logan in Chincoteague, VA. In this interview, she talks about her life and some foodways she's learned over the years. She speaks about her upbringing in Mappsville, VA, before moving to Chincoteague in 1942. She describes the various jobs she's had, eventually settling as a prep cook creating crab cakes and steaks for the Beachway Restaurant, noting some of the facets in how she made her crab cakes (recipe redacted). She talks about the African American community in Chincoteague, speaking about their work on the water and involvement in the seafood business. She talks more about life on the island, speaking of church life, music, and dancing. She mentions some of the changes on the island, mentioning how new generations don't want to continue family work, and the influences of churches in the area. In part 2, she speaks more on the spiritual aspect of her life and the influence of religion on her and her family. Through the course of this section, she describes her personal relationship with god and her lifelong connection with the almighty. She speaks of prayer and how she prays for people, noting her unique method of praying. She also speaks of the changes in raising children today vs in the past, noting a greater presence of "the devil" in modern society.

This interview is part of the Delmarva Folklife Project. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interview Log Interviewee: Rachel Logan Tape #: VA/FT/12.12.401/500 Interviewer: Kelly Feltault # of Tapes: 1 Date: 12/12/97 #of Sides: 2 Location: Mrs. Logan’s home, Chincoteague VA Topic: crab cake making; crochet; religious experience; women’s trads Corresponding Photography Log #: VA/PS/12.12

Comments: File name: ft12401.doc. Jtalics indicate song title, book title or emphasis; “quotations” indicate direct transcription; [brackets indicate additional information not on tape].

Barbara Luehning recommended that I speak with Rachel Logan about crab cake making. Mrs. Logan worked for Barb as a prep cook when Barb and her former husband owned the Beachway Restaurant—at one point 3 generations of Logans worked in their kitchen. The interview starts slow, I had just finished interviewing Maggie Trader and arrived late to Mrs. Logan’s after lunch with Maggie and Roland. However, the interview takes a turn as Mrs. Logan describes her crocheted work and subsequently her experiences of talking with God and the Angels. She is reluctant to discuss community history as she feels she is gossiping about friends and neighbors.

See fieldnotes for detailed descriptions of interview situation; FN12.12.97


getting the mic positioned [Rachel sits in a blue easy chair with her walker positioned in front of her. A plastic rectangular basket is strapped to the front rung of the walker and contains a comb, the TV remote, tissues, and other items. A large plastic drink cup with a lid and straw is stuffed between the cushion of the chair and its arm]

Rachel gives her name, born in Mappsville VA, living on Chincoteague since 1942 when married Joe Logan; lived in Philly, NY, Chester; how Joe was in service during W.W.II; wounded, lost hands; returned to Chinco after he returned from war

jobs she’s had: hotel manager, 10 children in her family, mother was Fannie Griffin, father Douglas Griffin; 8 girls 2

boys; only 2 left, sister in Brooklyn and herself; most of the original island people passed on; husband died in 79; his people are gone; how they owned all the land where the motel

is now and all the land around her house; how they sold it for nothing; she has held onto her land;

more on jobs she’s had: trapped or prepped [? I understood this to be prepped in the interview situation, though it sounds like trapped.]; cleaning at base; picked up eggs for Holly Farms in Snow Hill; prep cook Chinco Inn; how husband didn’t allow her to work when alive; when kids started going to school she went to work;

how she fell and hurt her back and hips; not working for over 2 years; making crab cakes, cutting steaks; duties of a prep cook; how island talk says she is the best crab cake maker on island; she got big monetary tips for her crab cakes, no bones etc.;

“What did you put in your crab cakes?”

“Tlaughter] that’s a secret. You don’t give away your secrets you keep that.” got to pick it good; going over picked crab meat again to pick out shell parts left in; medium spicy crab cakes; happy customers

how she developed recipe; is she like it everyone else might like it; not hard; her own way of making everything, experiments with food; learned on her own; likes to mess around with food; how Klaus [Barb’s husband] would watch her and write down everything because she wouldn’t tell him; recipes for clam casino

her autonomy in the restaurant; if she didn’t think it was right she wouldn’t do it; how she was always fair;

moving to NY before she got married; land and property rights disputed now;

her children; other daughter worked for Barbara too; working with several generations of her family in one restaurant; raising children; daughter in service [points to photo on wall of girl in uniform];

her accident: 6 crushed vertebrae in neck; 2 new hip sockets; bursitis in arm; [granddaughter enters with Rachel’s daughter, they head for the kitchen]

African American community on island; location of community on island: where all the motels are now near Logan Ln; all owned homes etc., then Maddox began buying them out—really they gave it to him, only $700 or $800 dollars; old heads died out and younger ones went to city

[lunch frying in back ground]

black community working the water; claming oystering; working on fish boats; nothing

else to do; oyster house shucking; Bill Birch owned one & Tom Reed was the other; Bill Bunton, now dead;

community life on island: used to have a church on Wilis St. now land has a motel on it; made own entertainment; visiting from house to house; drinking and playing cards; movies etc. went to mainland; before the rd across had to go to Franklin City on boat; wooden bridges with tolls;

“Tlaughter] there are lots of tales I could tell, but [laughter]” “Well let me hear one of them” “Oh no, no, no, no. I don’t bother other peoples’ business”

music on island: gramophones, everyone had one; Bessie and Mammie sang; says she forgot a lot; no clubs on island just went from house to house; would play guitars and mouth organs; Jews harp; made own and did dancing; kids played in glades;

how her husband and friend Ed Taylor explored old Indian grave behind her house; legend of Indians buried with gold and her husband hunting for it, buried in the glade [this area of Chinco is very marshy and little ponds and grass swamps abound]; nobody got them; found a cast iron casket there; sold to undertaker for junk for a dollar, undertaker would charge people to come see it; shaped like a man; lots of old tales;

when she came to Chinco. all roads were oyster shell no paved roads; none of the motels here most of island chicken houses;

more on her husband not letting her work; how she got around that with help of aunt; husband couldn’t work [no hands]; worked at Landmark Crab house prepping food, making crab cakes stuffed shrimp etc.;

women’s roles in community: shucking oysters; house work; work for Collins cleaning houses; then when motels built started cleaning at motels;

[granddaughter starts crying in kitchen, audible on tape]

always domestic work; no factories here; changes on island; working in summer for money in winter when no jobs; shucked in winter; neighbors helped neighbors much more than now; you don’t have you don’t have and those that do don’t help; transplants have bought up land and once sold you can’t even let your cat cross their yard; everything brotherly and sisterly until they arrived, color made no difference back then; church didn’t provide support that way, just a meeting house, churches didn’t have money;

black churches on island; methodist church was on willis St. where seashell is; property disputes over this, guy never paid for the church land; black people here were well off; started in 1940s selling land; young ones moved to Atlantic city, Philly; old heads died out; young ones didn’t want to shuck oysters, no other jobs;

her father worked on the farm; got a dollar a day; plowed with a mule; potato farm; she got tired of picking up potatoes and that’s when she left for NY with her sister; did domestic work there; left NY to Chester went to Philly, got married and came home; lived in NY in the 1930s; she was the smartest in family about working and so left to support the younger kids; working on the farms; bugs eating you; bug repellent they had back then made you break out;

[should have pursued life in NYC in 1930s]

I return to the crab cake topic; Rachel laughs; cakes are made by hand but meat weighed out; [Rachel begins to tell me about putting the cracker meal over the cake and stops, pauses, then begins:]

“OK, OK. use eggs, 2 lbs of meat I would use 4 eggs. . .” she ends up giving me her recipe, but stipulates that THE RECIPE WILL NOT BE GIVEN OUT TO ANYONE, EVEN FROM OFF THE TAPE IN FUTURE YEARS

Rachel says that everyone should do it the way they want to make a crab cake; stuffed flounder stuffed with same crab cake mix, same for shrimp; fish recipes; drum fish sandwich; not fancy food but natural

her daughter is a certified cook; experiments with food too; how Rachel likes to cook; likes the experimenting;

how churches won’t allow clubs on the island; she used to teach Sunday school; preacher came from mainland; singing in the choir; belongs to St. John’s in Atlantic; born Jan 26 1926; [phone rings]; traditions passed on to daughters: stay close to the Lord, crochet

commentary on society; saving your soul and staying ready;

nobody taught Rachel how to do anything, she taught herself by watching others; smart that way; that’s how she learned to crochet; we look at her afghans; hands give her problems now; working on a shell pattern; she made quilt tops but never quilted them; preferred knitting and crochet; used to make hats and pocket books; [comments to her granddaughter about safety and the kerosene stove]

END SIDE A BEGIN SIDE B: VA/FT/12.12.401/500

[As side A ended I got out my camera and took photos of Rachel, her afghans, and her granddaughter. The afghans I draped over the couch and as I photographed them her daughter and granddaughter left the house. Rachel began telling me of a religious experience she had while recuperating from her accident. We begin in mid sentence as she describes God talking to her]

God tells Rachel she is rich: diamonds=eyes, teeth=pearls, health=gold, silver=hair; be thankful because these will fade;

how when she gets sick he sends an angel to look down on her; angel sits over her bed; story of a picture of Jesus she had over her door that was about to fall and she believed that if it hit the floor she would die;

God been with her since the womb; never cursed like others, afraid to; used to drink but He stopped her by taking her breath away, one night after drinking;

story of being accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven; in bed couldn’t breath or move; spoke to her; in the Lord’s room with Disciples;

praying; needs; asks for others [Rachel’s voice begins to punctuate sentences, she is moving into a rhythmical speech pattern]; images of heaven; Lord’s influence on seasons, weather etc.; [some rhyming here]; how time is winding up; things coming to pass in the bible; raising children today and when she was raising hers; manifestation of the devil in contemporary society;

Lord been talking to her as long as she can remember; story of 7 or 8 years old and in field picking up potatoes when God spoke to her

[see Johnson, Clifton H., ed. 1969. God Struck Me Dead: Religious Conversion Experiences and Autobiographies of Ex-Slaves. Philadelphia: Pilgrim. for similar conversion/religious experiences. |

can’t tell everything he says to her; He always reveals an answer to her; through angels etc.; hanging over head while she lay in bed; how husband was an alcoholic who believed in new cars and bottles; story of how she was laying in bed asleep and Lord spoke to her, she became dead as usual [couldn’t breath, couldn’t move]; saw ladder from earth to heaven with angels climbing up; couldn’t wake up until she got finished with the vision; how she knew Princess Diana was going to die, Lord took her by hand and they flew over the tunnel where the accident happened, saw princess dressed in pink suit and hat; how she told the children about her vision;

how God brought her back from her accident; couldn’t move, go to the bathroom etc. and now can move around;

how it feels when the Lord is with you; can’t breath, can’t move, wide a wake but can’t move; wonderful feeling; how this earth is going to pass away but God is forever; never seen a U-haul taking people’s wealth to put in their grave; material things only go so far; God takes care of her;

always planting her seed; Lord’s seed; people always come to Rachel for advice and comfort; plain Rachel, what you see is what you get;

gets praying and can’t stop; just holding her mouth open and the words just rolling out; sometimes she tapes herself to hear it; tapes don’t sound like her; gave them away; people try to pray like her; call on her in church to pray; how her mother was a great prayer; uncle too;

how she is never alone; you might her here from outside the house and it sounds like the house is full but it’s only the lord and her; she is singing or praying or something; how she is just waiting on the Lord to come now, had a happy life

END SIDE B END TAPE VA/FT/12.12.401/500